Sunday, September 25, 2016

How to Stay Friends With Your Spouse

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When my husband and I first got married, he was in the process of completing his college degree, and I was working 2 part-time jobs. I had moved to Alabama where he was attending school, so I had to make new friends and get used to not being near my family.  My husband had to spend long hours at the library getting assignments done and studying for exams, and I found myself feeling disconnected from him after a while.

And this can happen whether you’ve been married one year or ten. 
The fact is, our jobs, children, church activities, and everything else we put on ourselves can drive a wedge between you and your spouse at any time if you don’t have a system in place to keep the two of you connected emotionally. So today’s post discusses tips for maintaining the intimacy of your friendship.

1.     Make being friends a priority. This means that the time you will be spending with each other has to be marked in your calendars like any other appointment and kept no matter what. There’s something about writing something in a planner or in a calendar that makes it officially important in your mind. If you don’t do this, no matter how many times you make plans to spend time together, there will always be things that pop up that are seemingly more urgent, and your relationship will keep getting pushed to the backburner.  

You may feel guilty dropping off the kids to grandma’s house or at daycare so that you and your spouse can have some time together, but trust me, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is the example of an authentic closeness in your marriage.

2.     Read a book together. I personally recommend something in the nonfiction genre. Maybe you can read a motivational book and from there decide on the goals you want to achieve as a family. Or read a biography and discuss some things you admired about the person. Reading itself helps expand your thinking, and reading together will help

3.     Participate in something new and exciting together. Go zip-lining, jet-skiing, or painting. Experiencing something together that is new for the both of you helps deepen the camaraderie between you.

4.     Cook a meal together. It’s nice to cook a meal for your spouse, but it’s so much more fun to look up a new recipe and cook it together. Working together to get something accomplished will help develop your communication and show you some of your strengths and weaknesses as a couple.

5.    Share funny conversations and interesting events from your day. This is the easiest to do. All you need is 15-20 minutes to sit on the couch together and talk about your day. This is my favorite thing to do with my husband. We both look forward to it because at the end of a busy day where we didn’t see each other, coming home and sharing our experiences keeps us connected.
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Friday, September 23, 2016

Success Depends on Being Able to Say NO

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Reading this quote (albeit, a roughly translated Confucius saying on success that is easier for my brain to wrap around this way) makes me cringe. I’ve been chasing a seriously large amount of rabbits lately – one of my biggest black holes and bad habits that I fall into time and time again.

Success Depends on Being Able to Say NO
I recently had someone who’s judgement I trust imperatively (she’s the pure definition of a girl boss – the girl was on the Forbes 30 Under 30, founded a multi-million dollar company, and now runs one of my favorite blogs ever) ask me why I have so many jobs. She had called to leave a message on my voicemail and wasted five minutes of her life listening to me rattle off my 37 (okay, 5) different job titles – and I wasn’t even including the random items I was doing on the side. The only answer I could give her?
“I have trouble saying no, and I’m a serial perfectionist”
"Success depends intensely on our ability to say NO"
Needless to say, she was stoked on my honesty and self awareness, but it really made me stop and think about exactly why I’ve packed my plate full once again, and if I’m creating roadblocks in my own path to success.

It’s so hard not to fill our lives with more, more, more all the time – but let’s think about the rabbit analogy for a minute; if you’re chasing too many things, can you really ever reach your potential in any one area? Honestly? Probably not. Just like you won’t catch either rabbit if you’re chasing two, you likely won’t do your best work or reach your goals if you’re chasing too many goals in the first place. Success depends intensely on our ability to say ‘no’.

I’m having to do some spring cleaning in my life right now and figure out which ventures are the most important and which things are creating unnecessary detours on my road map to awesomeness.

Are you committing to things in your life that are getting in your own way? What could you clear out of your life to make more room for success?
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How To Manage Your To-Do List Better

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Managing my time isn’t about squeezing as many tasks into my day as possible. It’s about simplifying how I work, doing things faster, and relieving stress. I promise you — there really are enough hours in a day for everything you’d like to do, but it may take a bit of rearranging and re-imagining to find them. 

How To Manage Your To-Do List Better
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know my biggest self-sabotage is overloading my schedule. But when you want to write a blog, run a business, make money, and enjoy life all at the same time, it gets hard to figure out how to actually manage your ever growing to-do list effectively.

I used to think my to-do lists were just about fitting as much stuff into each day as possible. I was totally that girl with the overflowing day planner and four billion freaking sticky notes stuck literally everywhere. Even the cat had post-it notes on him. The problem was that I usually ended up multitasking constantly throughout the day and almost never checking off all the items on my list.

I’ve since learned that there’s an art to list making and life organizing, and there really are tricks that change the game. These tips will take you from scrambling to fit it all in to seamlessly combining careers, checking off tasks, and ending your days on a boss babe high note.

I’m a planner addict and I’m not sorry. Day planners are an invaluable tool for entrepreneurs, bloggers, and anyone managing multiple ventures. Don’t expect for your brain to be able to remember everything – write that shit down. The trick to utilizing a day planner is twofold: firstly, get consistent. It takes 30 days to create a habit, so commit to using your planner everyday for the next 30 days to make it a natural part of your routine. Secondly, don’t overload your planner. Break things down into accomplishable segments so that you can check off all of your tasks each day.

Some people like to organize their day the night before, which is awesome. I’m a creative night owl so I’m much more focused and organized in the morning, so that’s when I sit down with my planner and to-do list and dial it all in. Doesn’t matter when you do it, as long as you do it right. Don’t just start writing down the million things that you have to do and filling up your list – there are usually going to be too many things going on in your life to accomplish it all in one day.

Start by going through your calendar (I use Google Calendar obsessively – like color coded and 37 alerts for every event) and checking for any appointments/events/etc and getting those down. After those are down, get a big piece of paper and write down every single thing you thing you need to do that day. No order, no organization – just everything you want to get to in one way or another.

Then take a look and pick your top 3 most important tasks for the day. These are the things that are time sensitive, important, and big. They should be the first things you conquer – don’t start with checking emails and getting sucked into the world of your inbox; conquer your 3 most important tasks first and get them out of the way.

Next move on to 3 tasks you really freaking hate but are pretty important. These are the things you’re most likely to procrastinate on, so get them out of the way next.
After the big stuff is out of the way, set aside a designated chunk of time to work on your passion project. Try for at least an hour of day dedicated purely to cultivating your creativity, pursuing your passions, and building the business of your dreams.

Almost at the bottom of the list is checking and responding to pertinent emails. Then finally, pick 3 – 5 sorta important tasks to put on your to-do list but that are prioritized last. For me, this usually includes mundane things like editing photos, doing my laundry, etc. Stuff that should get done but isn’t time sensitive and isn’t going to make a major impact on myself or others in the immediate future.

Don’t make the mistake of including only business and household related items in your planner and on your to-do list. Scheduling in date nights, girls nights, spa days, gym time, and even an hour to read a book and chill the f**k out is incredibly important. I find that if I don’t write this stuff into my daily schedule, I end up spending my entire day working and being productive. Which is awesome, but also not a complete version of a life. My problem is that I love working so it’s hard for me to stop. Once I started scheduling in social stuff, alone time with my better half, barre classes, time with my horses, etc. I actually started doing those things because they’re on the schedule! Make a point to schedule in something every single day that is purely about making you feel good. Even if this is watching Game of Thrones for an hour – schedule it!

What tips/tricks do you guys have for accomplishing everything on your to-do list?

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What Success Looks Like In Real Life

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Everybody’s up here trying to be successful, and I’m just drinking chardonnay in my pajamas watching The Bachelorette Guys Tell All.
A mediocre answer will be something like completing a project on time. You can say this, but add another twist to make the answer a little better. Here is an example. "To me, success means to have a goal, plan the steps to achieve the goal, implement the plan, and finally achieve the goal." Source: talkenglish
What Success Looks Like In Real Life
Kidding, obviously. Work/life balance means nothing to me because I absolutely love working so I’m always doing it. That doesn’t mean I’m not drinking wine and watching The Chad at the same time, but it does make me question every now and then exactly why I do what I do. I usually end up at the same place everyone else does: I want to be successful. A successful blogger, a successful entrepreneur, a successful rich lady with a great husband and a nice house.

But what does that MEAN? The word “success” got me in a lot of trouble for a long time; constantly looking at success as a destination meant that I was living in a constant state of not having it. I think most people get stuck in this trap of seeing success as something in the far off distance that maybe they’ll reach someday. Working a shitty job for years to become “successful” and then get to enjoy life. But isn’t that approach kind of fucked up?

Success in the real world isn’t one size fits all. It’s an experience, a series of mini victories to celebrate every day. Success is flexible, customizable, and personal. No one can define your success but you. There is no income level, job title, house size, follower number, or award that delineates the successful from the unsuccessful. Successful people are the ones who do things because they are passionate, excited, and authentic. As long as you’re living your truth, you are a successful girl boss of a woman. The wonderful thing is that the more successful you feel, the more successful you become. Feeling like a success now will fuel you to work towards your goals and live a big life, and you’ll quickly surpass the people who are still viewing it as some illusive destination. You can wish you had something and actually have something at the same time. So stop seeing success as something you will get one day and start noticing the badass things you’re achieving every single day.

What Success Looks Like In Real Life
Real life is messy, unpredictable, and likes to test your limits. The women we look up to as huge successes are who they are because they believed in themselves and decided to go for what they wanted, and I assure you that they celebrate every tiny little victory. Stop comparing your success journey to other people – their version is never going to be the same as yours, and it’s not meant to. It’s your job to define and constantly redefine what success means in your life.

What does success look like in your life and how do you “tell” if you’re successful? Let me know below, you wise babes.
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Thursday, September 22, 2016

The #1 Reason You Never Reach Your Goals

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Goal setting is HUGE! Without goals to work towards, success is pretty much impossible. It’s in your nature to need to grow, think bigger, and want more. Goals give us something to look to, something to focus on, and something to get us through the times that we want to give up and never work again. Goals are good. Goals are necessary.

The #1 Reason You Never Reach Your Goals
Unfortunately, most people never reach their goals.
Seriously! According to the University of Scranton, 92 percent of people never reach the goals they set. 92 percent! WTF, right?

But guess what? You’re going to join the 8% and step up into a life of success, achievement, and total confidence in your ability to always, always, always reach the goals you set – with this one little secret.
Your goals will always fail if they’re focused on the outside instead of how you want to feel.

Let’s get more specific: you need to set goals; setting goals and working towards them innately feels good and is important. The problem with traditional models of goal setting is that the goals, even when they’re specific and measurable, are completely focused on external circumstances that are, at least partially, out of your control. This pretty much sets you up for failure from the get go and creates a cycle of goal setting, trying, and giving up.

Goals should be specific and can include measurable factors, but it’s key to get to the WHY beneath the WHAT. That’s the secret to success, because focusing on creating the feelings that you want is under your control, doesn’t take “willpower”, and will feel great during the process as well as the destination. Think about it this way: first find the BIG WHY, then make a list of sub-goals that will help you achieve that feeling. All of the steps should be under your control (aka things you can do in the short term without anything crazy needing to happen)

Let’s say your goal is to make $5000 next month from your new e-course. There’s nothing wrong with that goal in theory (there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting lot’s of money – money is awesome – we’ll dive into the weirdness around wanting to be rich in a post soon). The problem is that you can’t totally control who buys your course, how many people buy your course, and how much money you’ll make. Sure, you can take steps to have the best launch ever, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty there. Plus, why do you want to make $5000 in the first place? Is it to have the freedom to take a vacation? The security of knowing you can pay your bills? The independence you’ll have from being able to quit your day job?

THAT’s the secret, right there. So let’s set your goal up like this:
Desired circumstance – I’d like to make $5000 or more from my course launch this month

What I really want – I want the freedom of being financially stable
My intention – to feel FREE
Steps I can take to feel FREE this month that are totally in my control:
  • Take a course launch e-course
  • Write an awesome email campaign
  • Create a killer FB ad and set an automated budget I’m comfortable with
  • Ask my friends and family to share a post about my course
If you set up your goals like this – whether they’re career goals, relationship goals, school goals, life goals – you will 100% succeed and actually reach the goals that you set. These goals are specific, they’re easily doable, and they’re meaningful – you’re fully in control of every step, and you’re focused on the WHY instead of the WHAT, so you really can’t fail!

Share your goals in the comments below – I LOVE hearing about the amazing things you guys are doing.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

How to be Happy: 10 Science-Backed Ways to be Immensely Happy

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Gandhi said that "happiness is achieved when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony." Nothing is truer than this sentence. What happens is that sometimes we do not know how to be happy, even having it all.

Therefore, I have tried to give you the best ways to be happy by collecting top 10 ways from various trusted sources from science research. 

Happy people accomplish more. Easier said than done though, right? Actually, many changes are easy. Here are 10 science-based ways to be immensely happy everyday.

1. Exercise, even for 7 minutes.

Exercise has a profound effect on our happiness and our well-being that has become an effective strategy to combat depression. This is demonstrated by a study cited in Shawn Achor's book, The Happiness Advantage. Three groups of depressed patients treated with medication, sport or a combination of both. The results were surprising: all groups experienced an improvement and only 9% of those who had alleviated her depression with the sport had fallen six months. The benefits of sport are positive in anyone who exercise and want to be a little happier throughout the day.

How to be Happy: 10 Science-Backed Ways to be Immensely Happy
2. Sleep more.

You will be less susceptible to negative emotions. Sleep is very important for the body to recover from your daily activities. It also has very positive effects on our joy. Lack of sleep affects more intensely the hippo-campus, so that people who sleep poorly are more likely to remember negative events intensity and forget the positive. The humor with which we face the early hours of the day can condition the whole day, so it is important to rest well.

3. Spend more time with friends and family.

It sounds cliche, but have not spent enough time with friends and family is one of the main regrets that expresses people before dying.
According to Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology at Harvard: "We are happy when we have family and we are happy when we have friends, and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually ways to have more friends and family ". 
Also, the Terman study points out that relationships with others are essential to live a long and happy life. "The clearest benefit of social relationships comes from helping others Those who helped their friends and neighbors, counseling and taking care of others, they tended to live longer than the rest people. "

4. Get outside often.

In the book "The Happiness Advantage", Shawn Achor recommends spending time outdoors to increase the joy and good humor: "One study found that spending 20 minutes on the street in good weather not only promotes good mood, but triggers reflection and improves memory, "he says. So, even if it is simply in the lunch break, book a few minutes a day to give you the fresh air.

5. Help others.

To be happy is essential to help others. And it seems that 100 hours a year (two hours a week) is the time to be spent. The Journal of Happiness Studies published research that alluded to the fact that the people who had been instructed to buy something for someone else experiencing a much greater happiness than those who had bought something themselves.

6. smiles.

It is not pretending, but smile can make us feel better. Of course, it is important that the smile is the product of cultivating positive thoughts, as stated in a study by Michigan State University. This suggests that those who work with the public, if force a fake smile throughout the day cause your mood worse and end up leaving work. However, those who smile as a result of thinking positive thoughts improve their mood and they are happiest.

7. Plan a trip, but do not go.

The fact planning a trip or a break at work can contribute to your well-being. A study published in Applied Research in Quality Life showed that the highest peak of happiness was experienced during the holiday planning, more than during the journey itself. This is linked to the feeling of anticipation.

8. Meditate.

A research team from Massachusetts General Hospital conducted brain scans on 16 people before and after their participation in a meditation course of eight weeks. 
The study, published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, concluded that after completing the course the parts of the brain associated with compassion and conscience had grown, while the parts related to stress are reduced. Also, relax and meditate often clarify our mind, which also contributes to our own happiness.

9. Move in close to work.

The time it takes us to reach the workplace has a great impact on our happiness. At the end of the day, it's something we do twice a day, five days a week, and people who move takes a long time or does uncomfortably is less happy. So says The Art of Manliness: "While many conditions do not affect our long-term happiness because we got used to them, never got used to the daily effort to go to work Sometimes the traffic is awful and sometimes not.".

10. Practice gratitude

Be thankful for the things we value them-which involves in its just measure-is very important to be aware of our happiness and enjoy it more. In fact, participants in an experiment linked to gratitude should, first, write a list of things for which they were grateful, and that simple fact and improved his mood.

As we invest money in certain aspects of life, the same way we invest our time in activities that provide us with large doses of joy. Best of all, is that it is simple things, as Albert Einstein said: 

"A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin, what else does a man need to be happy?".
I’m truly grateful to the people in this blog who have come to read it. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting the work by sharing on social media.
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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Basic Principles for Startups

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At Expert Business Advice, we’re all about building on the basics. Here’s a great place to start! 
STARTING UP A BUSINESS may be a thrilling experience to startup entrepreneurs.  It is an anxious time when many entrepreneurs want to test the life of being in business.  However, many get frustrated after few days in business when they find that the smooth flow they were expecting is the exact opposite.  The bottom line is that building a new business is very challenging.  Furthermore, it is an endeavor that is riddled with competition.
As a startup, you should be ready to resist the pressure.  The first challenge you will encounter is looking for the strategic place to locate your business.

Preparation will help the start-up process be much smoother.  If you are not interested in working for someone else, all you need to understand are some basic principles of running a business.  The first principle you need to understand is to get the basic documents that are needed.  To avoid the authorities, it’s good to look for the basic documents like a business license and certificates.  

Without a strategic business plan, no business will prosper.  This is why you need to come up with a realistic plan.  This is what will act as a guide toward your success.  The kind of plan you come up with should be all-inclusive yet flexible.  Have targets to meet with your plan and work toward achieving them.  It is of great significance to remember that a good plan is one that will cover all of your bases from conceptualization to profit.  If you don’t have enough skills to come up with the best plan, then you can make use of experts.  You can also make use of templates to know how to matrix your businesses plan completely.

It’s good to know the kind of products/ services you are going to be selling.  As a prospective entrepreneur, you should know what you will be offering to customers.  It is good to determine your target market and how you will convince them to make use of your products and services.  You should be aware of the best advertising methods to utilize.  Some of the best means are radio, television and Internet.  

Competition is another thing that you need to be aware of.  There are many contenders in the same field you are eyeing.  This is why you need to be aggressive so that you are the best.  What will see you beat the competition are the management skills you have and the dedication.  As a business person you should be ready to go a mile ahead.  You should be ready to sacrifice your time and money to get tips on how to succeed in this industry.

Finally, market testing is a no-miss tactic that every prospective entrepreneur should do before they try to start a business. You could be the most resourceful person in the world with the greatest product ever invented, but if your market won’t bear what you’re selling, nothing else matters. For instance, if you want to open a luxury clothing store in a town with an average household income of $24,000, you probably won’t sell much there.
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Necessary Components of an Effective Business Plan [Part 4-9]

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Having to write a business plan is the most important facet of starting a business. Consequently, it’s also the greatest deterrent. Fear not. 
ORGANIZATION & MANAGEMENT is Part 4 to a well-written business plan.  This section provides profiles of key members of management.  At a minimum, it should include the structure of the organization, profiles of key management and Board of Directors (if you have one), and other important ownership information.
Necessary Components of an Effective Business Plan [Part 4-9]

The initial subsection of the Organization & Management portion of the business plan should be a structure of the organization.  The most effective and cleanest way to show the company’s structure is to provide readers with an organizational chart and narrative description.  This will demonstrate to your readers that you leave nothing to chance, there is a comprehensive plan in place, and that the most appropriate employee is in charge of each function of the business. Potential investors and employees alike find this to be very important.

Profiles of key management typically follow the organizations structure.  What are the individual roles and responsibilities for members of management?  What are their education and employment backgrounds and why are they being brought into the business as a member of the board or senior manager?  The details may appear unnecessary in one- or two-person businesses; however, individuals, especially investors, reading the business plan, expect to know everyone’s role and level of experience.  Provide a well thought-out, detailed write-up including the function of each department or facet of the business.

Again, if you have a Board of Directors, make sure to list all of the members and how you expect to keep them involved with your organization.  What salary and benefits packages do you plan to offer employees?  Are there any incentive opportunities?  Promotions?

One of the most important components for success in the growth of any company is the ability and track record of its owner/management team.  Let your readers know about the key people in your company and their backgrounds.  Provide resumes that include the following information:
  • Name
  • Position (include brief position description along with primary duties)
  • Primary responsibilities and authority
  • Education
  • Unique experience and skills
  • Prior employment
  • Special skills
  • Past track record
  • Industry recognition
  • Community involvement
  • Number of years with company
  • Compensation basis and levels (make sure these are reasonable -- not too high or too low)
Ensure you quantify achievements (e.g. "Managed a sales force of ten people," "Managed a department of fifteen people," "Increased revenue by 15 % in the first six months," "Expanded the retail outlets at the rate of two each year," "Improved the customer service as rated by our customers from a 60 % to a 90 % rating"). Also, highlight how the people surrounding you complement your own skills.  If you're just starting out, show how each person's unique experience will contribute to the success of your venture.

While not all businesses have a Board of Directors, the major benefit of an unpaid advisory board is that it can provide expertise that your company cannot otherwise afford.  A list of well-known, successful business owners/managers can go a long way toward enhancing your company's credibility and perception of management expertise.

If you have a Board of Directors, be sure to gather the following information when developing the outline for your business plan:
  • Names
  • Positions on the board
  • Extent of involvement with the company
  • Background
  • Historical and future contribution to the company's success
Finally, conclude this section by providing details regarding the legal structure of the business, followed by the ownership information.  Is the business incorporated?  What type of incorporation?  Maybe you have an LLC or partnership.  Are you setup as a sole proprietor?

The following ownership information is important and necessary for the Organizational Structure section of a successful business plan:
  • Owners’ names
  • Member interest breakdown (Who owns how much)
  • Company involvement
  • Ownership types (such as common and preferred stock, general partner, limited partner)
  • Any other existing equity equivalents such as warrants, options, convertible debt, etc.
  • Common stock
* * *
MARKETING AND SALES STRATEGIES is Part 5 of your business plan. Marketing is the process of creating customers: the lifeblood of your business.  In this section, the first thing you want to do is define your marketing strategy. There is no single way to approach a marketing strategy.  Your strategy should be part of an ongoing business-evaluation process and unique to your company.  However, there are common steps you can follow to help you think through the direction and tactics you would like to use to drive sales and sustain customer loyalty.

An overall marketing strategy should include, at a minimum, these four strategies:
  • A market penetration strategy
  • A growth strategy.  This strategy for building your business might include an internal strategy such as how to increase your human resources, an acquisition strategy such as buying another business, a franchise strategy for branching out, a horizontal strategy where you would provide the same type of products to different users, or 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 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), an internal sales force, distributors, or retailers.
  • Communication strategy. How are you going to reach your customers? Usually a combination of the following tactics works the best: promotions, advertising, public relations, personal selling, and printed materials such as brochures, catalogs, flyers, etc.
After you have developed a comprehensive marketing strategy, you can then define your sales strategy.  This covers how you plan to actually sell your product.
Your overall sales strategy should include two primary elements:
  • A sales force strategy.  If you are going to have a sales force, do you plan to use internal or independent representatives?  How many salespeople will you recruit for your sales force?  What type of recruitment strategies will you use?  How will you train your sales force?  What about compensation for your sales force?
  • 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.  Once you have made a list of your prospects, you need to prioritize the contacts, selecting the leads with the highest potential to buy first.  Next, identify the number of sales calls you will make over a certain period of time.  From there, you need to determine the average number of sales calls you will need to make per sale, the average dollar size per sale, and the average dollar size per vendor.
* * *
SERVICE OR PRODUCT LINE is Part 6 of your business plan.  What are you selling?  In this section, describe your service or product, emphasizing the benefits to potential and current customers.  For example, don't tell your readers which 89 foods you carry in your "Gourmet-to-Go" shop.  Tell them why busy, two-career couples will prefer shopping in a service-oriented store that records clients' food preferences and caters to even the smallest parties on short notice.

Focus on the areas where you have a distinct advantage.  Identify the problem in your target market for which your service or product provides a solution.  Give the reader hard evidence that people are, or will be, willing to pay for your solution. List your company's services and products and attach any marketing/promotional materials.  Provide details regarding suppliers, availability of products/services, and service or product costs. Also include information addressing new services or products which will soon be added to the company's line.

Overall, this section should include:
  • A detailed description of your product or service (from your customers' perspective).  You should include information about the specific benefits of your product or service.  You should also talk about your product/service's ability to meet consumer needs, any advantages your product has over that of the competition, and the present development stage your product is in (e.g. idea, prototype, etc.).
  • Information related to your product's life-cycle.  Ensure to include information about where your product or service is in its life cycle, as well as any factors that may influence its cycle in the future.
  • Any copyright, patent and trade secret information that may be relevant.  This should include information related to existing, pending or anticipated copyright and patent filings along with any key characteristics of your products/services for which you cannot obtain a copyright or patent.  This is where you should also incorporate key aspects of your products/services that may be classified as trade secrets.  Last, but not least, be sure to add any information pertaining to existing legal agreements, such as nondisclosure or non-compete agreements.
  • Research and development (R&D) activities you are involved in or are planning to be involved in.  These would include any in-process or future activities related to the development of new products/services.  This section would also include information about what you expect the results of future R&D activities to be.  Be sure to analyze the R&D efforts of not only your own business, but also that of others in your industry.
* * *
The FUNDING REQUEST is Part 7 of your business plan.  In this section, you will request the amount of funding you will need to start or expand your business.  If necessary, you can include different funding scenarios, such as best- and worst-case scenarios.  Remember that later, in the financial section, you must be able to back up these requests and scenarios with corresponding financial statements.

You will want to include the following in your funding request:
  • Your current funding requirement
  • Your future funding requirements over the next five years
  • How you will use the funds you receive
  • Any long-range financial strategies that you are planning that would have any type of impact on your funding request 
When you are outlining your current and future funding requirements, ensure you include the amount you want now and the amount you want in the future, the time period that each request will cover, the type of funding you would like to have (e.g. equity, debt), and the terms that you would like to have applied.

How you will use your funds is very important to a creditor.  Is the funding requested for capital expenditures?  Working capital?  Debt retirement?  Acquisitions?  Whatever it is, be sure to list it in this section. 

Last of all, ensure that you include any strategic information related to your business that may have an impact on your financial situation in the future, such as going public with your company, having a leveraged buyout, being acquired by another company, the method with which you will service your debt, or whether or not you plan to sell your business in the future.  Each of these is extremely important to a future creditor, since they will directly impact your ability to repay your loan(s).
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FINANCIALS is Part 8 of your business plan.  The financials should be developed after you've analyzed the market and set clear, realistic objectives.  Only then, can you allocate resources efficiently.  The following is a list of the critical financial statements to include in your business plan packet:

Historical Financial Data.
  If you own an established business, you will be requested to supply historical data related to your company's performance.  Most creditors request data for the last three-to-five years, depending on the length of time you have been in business.

The historical financial data you would want to include would be your company's income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements for each year you have been in business (usually for up to three-to-five years).  Often, creditors are also interested in any collateral that you may have that could be used to ensure your loan, regardless of the stage of your business.

Prospective Financial Data.
  All businesses, whether start-up or growing, will be required to supply prospective financial data.  Most of the time, creditors will want to see what you expect your company to be able to do over the next five years. Each year's documents should include forecasted income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and capital expenditure budgets.  For the first year, you should supply monthly or quarterly projections.  From there, you can stretch it to quarterly and/or yearly projections for years two-through-five.

Ensure that your projections match your funding requests.  Creditors will be on the lookout for inconsistencies.  It's much better if you catch mistakes before they do.  If you have made assumptions in your projections, be sure to summarize what you have assumed.  This way, the reader will not be left guessing. Finally, include a short analysis of your financial information.  Include a ratio and trend analysis for all of your financial statements (both historical and prospective).  Since pictures speak louder than words, you may want to add graphs of your trend analysis (especially if they are positive).
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The APPENDIX, Part 9, is the final section that you should prepare for of your business plan.  However, this section should be provided to readers on an as-needed basis.  In other words, it should not be included with the main body of your business plan.  Your plan is your communication tool; as such, it will be seen by a lot of people.  Some of the information in the business section you will not want everyone to see. Specific individuals (such as creditors) may want access to this information in order to make lending decisions.  Therefore, it is important to have the appendix within easy reach.

The Appendix should include:
  • Credit history (personal & business)
  • Resumes of key managers
  • Product pictures
  • Letters of reference
  • Details of market studies
  • Relevant magazine articles or book references
  • Licenses, permits or patents
  • Legal documents
  • Copies of leases
  • Building permits
  • Contracts
  • List of business consultants, including attorney and accountant
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Any copies of your business plan should be controlled.  Also, ensure that you keep a distribution record.  This will allow you to update and maintain your business plan on an as-needed basis.  Remember, too, that you should include a private placement disclaimer with your business plan if you plan to use it to raise capital. 
We sincerely hope that this guide has offered you some clarity and guidance as you move forward toward the creation of your own business plan. As an additional tool, we offer a fully assembled business plan template here, (insert link to shopping cart here). We wish you the very best of luck in your future business endeavors.   
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Necessary Components of an Effective Business Plan [Part 1-3]

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Having to write a business plan is the most important facet of starting a business. Consequently, it’s also the greatest deterrent. Fear not. 
WHEN STARTING A BUSINESS, the very first thing you should have is a business plan. The business plan has several purposes. It’s a good way to put ideas on paper and keep track of the steps you’ve taken to start the business. 
It’s also a major requirement in acquiring financing for your business.  
No one is going to want to give you any money to help you start your business unless you can prove to them that you have a plan to keep your business from crashing down soon after takeoff. Below, you will find a series of sections that make up a basic business plan. 
If you already finished this post, here is second part of Necessary Components of an Effective Business Plan

The EXECUTIVE SUMMARY is the first part of a business plan and is the most crucial piece of your plan.  It provides a very descript synopsis of the entire plan, along with a brief history of your company.  This portion of the plan tells readers where your business is and where you want to take it.  It's the first thing your readers see; therefore, it is the thing that will both grab their attention and make them want to keep learning or make them want to close the cover and move on to something else.  Most importantly, this part of the plan conveys the message of why you believe your business will be successful. 

Here’s a tip:  The executive summary is most easily and effectively written at the end of your efforts of planning and writing the business plan.  Once all of the details of your plan are in order, you will be prepared to condense it into the executive summary. Try to keep this section to fewer than four pages. 

Included in the Executive Summary are:
  • Mission Statement:  The mission statement briefly explains the focus of your business.  The statement can be any length as long as the point is conveyed and understood.  It should be as direct and to-the-point as possible and it should leave the reader with a clear picture of what your business is all about
  • When the business was started
  • Key management and their roles
  • Number of employees
  • Primary location of the business and other satellite locations
  • Description of office, manufacturing plant, or facilities
  • What are the products or services
  • Current investor information and any additional financial relationships or arrangements
  • Brief summary of the company’s financial accomplishments and any noteworthy market activities (e.g., your business tripled its value in a one-year period or you became the leader in your industry by developing a certain product)
  • Briefly describe management's plans for the business’ future.  With the exception of the Mission Statement, the information located in the Executive Summary should be represented in a brief or bulleted style.  Note that this information is expanded upon in greater detail within the remainder of the business plan

It’s not uncommon that if you are just starting a business, you, most likely, will not have a lot of information to populate the fields mentioned above.  As an alternative, focus on your experience, background, and the decisions that led you to start the business.  Ensure that it contains information about the difficulties your target market has and what resolutions your business will provide.  Explain how the business you have will allow you to make meaningful advances into the market.  Advise your reader what you're going to perform uniquely or more effectively than your competition.  Assure the reader that there is a definitive need for the product or service provided by your business, then go ahead and address the business’ prospective plans.

To help the reader in pinpointing specific sections within your business plan, provide a table of contents immediately following the executive summary.  Be confident that the content titles are very broad; try not to include too much detail.

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The MARKET ANALYSIS portion is Part 2 of a well-written business plan. This part of the plan should demonstrate your knowledge regarding the particular industry that your business plans to engage. It should also provide basic statistics and key information of any marketing research data you have obtained; however, the itemized details of your market research studies should be placed in the appendix section of the business plan.  The market analysis portion of the business plan should include a description of the industry, target market facts and information, market test results, timeframes and an evaluation of your competition.

Within the market analysis, the Industry Description section should include an overview of your primary industry, industry size, current and trailing growth rates, market trends and characteristics relating to the entire industry (for example, what is the life cycle stage of the industry? What is the industry’s expected growth rate?), and include the major customer groups within the industry (This can be as broad or narrow (businesses, governments, women over 35 years of age, children under 5, etc.) depending on the size and scope of the industry and the business represented.

The business’ target market is the customer base that it wants to supply products or provide services to.  When defining a target market, it’s vital to narrow the group to a realistic volume.  Often, businesses make the fatal miscalculation of trying to offer something to everybody.  This approach typically ends in failure.

Within the Target Market section, you should gather information that identifies the following:
  • Key characteristics of the primary group you are targeting.  This segment should include information about the critical needs of your future customers, the level to which those needs are currently being met, and the demographics of the group. Ensure you also include the geographic location of your target market; identify the key decision-makers, and any seasonal or cyclical trends that may impact the industry or your business model.
  • Size of the target market.  Herein, you will need to know the amount of available customers in your primary market, the amount of annual purchases they make relative to products or services at par with your own, the geographic area they inhabit, and the expected market growth for this group.
  • The magnitude to which your business expects to obtain market-share and the reasons why.  When gathering this information, you need to decide how much market share and how many customers you expect to gain in a specific geographic region.  In addition, you should provide the reader with an understanding of the reasoning that was used in developing these estimates.
  • Pricing and gross margin expectations.  In this section, it would be wise to define the structure of your pricing, your gross margin requirements, and any discounts or incentives that you plan to offer through the business, such as large-volume purchasing, bulk discounts, or prompt payment discounts that discourage customers from taking advantage of payment terms.
  • Target market research and information sources.  These resources could be purchased demographic research, directories, business associations, industry publications, and government documents.
  • Media the business will use to reach the target audience.  The media may include internet marketing, internet radio, terrestrial radio, television, magazines, periodicals, or any other type of engaging media that has potential interaction with the target audience.
  • Buying patterns of your target market.  The first step is to identify the needs of the potential consumers, conduct research in order to address their needs, review the possibilities, and identify the person or persons that can select the most effective solution.
  • Trends that affect the potential customers, coupled with fundamental features of the subsequent markets.  As with the primary target market, it is important to pinpoint the needs, demographics and developing trends that are going to affect the secondary markets later.

Including information about any of the market tests already completed is important to include in the business plan.  Specific details should be included in the appendix.  Market studies usually include the target customers who were contacted, all data or information that was provided to prospective customers, how critical satisfying their needs really are, and the target market's willingness to purchase products or services at a blend of different price-points from your business.

Lead-time is the required amount of time from when a customer places an order until the moment the product or service is delivered.  When you research this information, determine your lead-times regarding initial orders, re-orders, and bulk purchases.

While conducting a competitive analysis (SWOT Analysis) it is critical to identify the competition’s product-lines or services and market segment. Use this information to determine their strengths and weaknesses, understand the relationship between your target market and your competitors, and identify any roadblocks that may interfere with you entering the marketplace. Also, be certain that you identify all of the primary competitors for each of the products or services offered.  For each key competitor, determine their market share; try to predict when new competitors will enter into the marketplace.  In fewer words, how long will your window of opportunity last?  Finally, pinpoint any additional or less impactful competitors that may have an effect on your business succeeding.

The strengths or competitive advantages realized by your competition’s organization can become advantages that you too provide.  These strengths can be found in many different areas of the business. They typically include:

  • An ability to service the customers needs
  • The holding of a great deal of market share (consumer’s brand awareness comes with that)
  • Years in business as a trusted organization
  • Great financial position, ensuring that they can survive as a business through thick-and-thin
  • Exceptional management or personnel

Weaknesses are easy to understand as they are simply the opposite of strengths.  However, it is important to analyze the same areas as you did prior to determine the weaknesses of your competition.  Do they satisfy the needs of their customers? What is their current market penetration?  How well do the target audiences and the public view them in regard to past-performance, trust, and reputability?  Are they experiencing financial constraints or limitations?  These could all be red flags for any business.  If you discover weak spots in the competition, try to develop an understanding as to why the problems exist, leaving you with the ability to avoid them.

In the event that target audience is not shared by your competition, you should be able to grow your idea with little resistance.  However, if the competition is hungry for your target market, too, you should plan to handle the known roadblocks on your way to success.  Some issues you may uncover include:

  • Large start-up costs
  • Time required to get your idea off the ground may be significant
  • Constantly evolving technologies
  • Shortage of skillful personnel
  • Customers are unfamiliar with your company, product or service
  • Current intellectual property laws such as trademarks, patents and trademarks inhibit your ability to innovate

The last section that requires research is the section covering restrictions and regulations.  This includes information related to employees, customers, government regulation requirements, and any other future changes.  Important items that need to be addressed include: steps necessary to conform to the requirements that are going to affect your business, as well as the timeframe required, such as: When does your business have to be in compliance?  On what date do these changes take effect? What will it take, in regard to labor and expenses, to conform to these issues?

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COMPANY DESCRIPTION is Part 3 when compiling a business plan. While keeping the finer details limited, provide the reader with a brief understanding of how all of the different components of the business work in conjunction with one another. A company description typically provides information about the fundamentals of the business along with a breakdown of the key factors that will lead to the business’ success.  When providing the fundamentals of the business, it is important to include detail on the needs of the marketplace that you are trying to satisfy.  Ensure you provide detail on the initiatives that you expect will satisfy these needs.  Lastly, provide a breakdown of key individuals and major organizations that have these needs.

Fundamental factors of success typically include an ability to satisfy your customers' needs better than the competition, time and cost-effective processes of providing products or services, valuable personnel, and quite often, a prime location.  Any, or all, of these provides businesses a competitive advantage.

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If you already finished this post, here is second part of Necessary Components of an Effective Business Plan
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Choosing the Best Type of Business for Startup

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When conceptualizing a new venture, this decision is seldom given the thought and consideration it deserves. Start your business the right way by addressing this first. 

WHETHER SETTING UP YOUR BUSINESS as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), S-Corporation, or C-Corporation, it is vital to understand, not only the filing and paperwork requirements, but also the different tax implications that are present with each type of business structure. 
Choosing the Best Type of Business for Startup
Commonly, owner-operated small businesses are set up as sole proprietorships due to the simplicity of the filings and regulation, as well as the single-layer tax impact on the revenues of the business.  This type of ownership also allows the owner to be his or her own boss.  However, owners should be extremely cautious when dealing as a sole proprietor or in a general partnership.  These two types of business structures allow for all of the liabilities of the business to be shared with the individual owners on a personal level.  As such, unlimited liability can be scary.  Just remember to hope for the best but plan for the worst.  Don’t choose a business structure based on the ease and convenience of setting it up.  It is more common than one would think to have business situations end in lawsuits resulting in general partners and sole proprietors being sued personally and losing homes, cars and savings accounts.  There are plenty of hurdles that these types of business owners have to overcome.  Management can be difficult with limited participants and there is commonly a very overwhelming time commitment associated with this type of business. 
There are two types of members in a partnership: a general partner and a limited partner.  General partners have unlimited liability and they are typically managers of the company.  Limited partners have exactly what you would think: limited liability.  They, also, usually do not have a role managing the company.  Just remember, no matter how well the individual partners get along, one of the most common issues with partnerships is the disagreements that arise between members.  This sometimes leads to unfortunate falling-outs between friends. 
Most successful types of businesses are corporations—either limited liability companies, conventional corporations (C-Corps), or S-Corporations.  These three forms of business ownership comprise approximately 80% of all sales in the United States and they all share two major benefits; the first being that they have limited liability, and the second, they usually qualify for special tax advantages that other types of business ownerships do not.  Incorporating a business is a great strategy as it allows for the company to grow, it has perpetual life, ownership can change hands easily, and it’s common for corporations to be able to afford talented employees.  However, as a sword can cut both ways, there are some disadvantages to incorporating a business.  Corporations are more costly to start, they require more paperwork, possible conflicts with other owners and board members can arise, and they are also affected by double taxation, which means that the business’ profits will be taxed, as well as the shareholders’ dividends. 

A special type of incorporation is called an S-Corporation.  Aside from sharing the benefit of limited liability, this type of corporation has a major difference from a conventional C-Corporation:  It has much simpler taxes, called ‘single taxation,’ that are similar to that of a partnership.  Downsides of incorporating as an S-Corporation include ineligibility for a dividends received deduction, and that S-Corps are not subject to the 10% of taxable income limitation that are applicable to charitable contribution deductions.
Choosing the best type of business is a personal choice, albeit one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  The prospected longevity, growth and future development of the business should be taken into serious consideration before the choice to incorporate is made.
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Setting Objectives for Your New Business

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The business world is growing by the day.  It is one of the industries that continue to attract new players yearly.  There are also seasoned business people who make it extremely competitive for a newbie to venture into business easily.  Whether you are a new or seasoned player in business, it is very important to set objectives.  Note that the business world is extremely competitive and there are many challenges that you will come across.  Some are unexpected and others are generally expected.  It is essential to set goals and, more specifically, long term objectives because they enable you to run a business smoothly.
Setting Objectives for Your New Business

One of the reasons why you should set goals for your new business is because they enable you to visualize any obstacle.  When starting a business, there are many challenges that you may face.  Some can easily cripple your business if you are not prepared.  Setting objectives enables you to visualize obstacles so as to come up with the best strategies that will allow you to solve any issues at hand conveniently and comfortably.  Goals also prepare your business for any obstacle through proper planning.  As a result, it will be easy to run the business during low and peak seasons, among other challenges.
Objectives for a new business are also very important because they act as a driving force.  They reignite your inner power to run the business, despite difficulties.  This is attributed to the fact that they define the entire purpose of a business establishment.  What’s more, whenever you are on the verge of giving up, your goals will motivate you.  You will work toward achieving your goals, thus finding yourself in a better position to start and run the business productively.  

It is also imperative to set objectives for your new business because they enable you to deliver quality service to clients.  In business, the quality of services you deliver plays a crucial role in determining how long you will stay in the field.  Therefore, setting objectives say, to get the best client base over a span of one year, enables you to deliver quality services.  You will work toward meeting and satisfying the needs of your clients.  With the best objectives, it will also be easy for you to use the best business strategies so as to achieve a cutting edge against relevant competitors.  In this relevance, define your goals and set long-term objectives for the benefit of your new business.

Furthermore, setting objectives for your new business helps to enhance productivity in the business.  Your employees will be motivated because they know they are working toward achieving set goals.  Managing the business will also be an easy task.  Objectives also save a great deal on time and cash because you won’t have to follow up employees and arguing on petty issues.  This is because objectives are of form of culture and everyone will ensure that he or she works toward achieving set objectives, despite many challenges.  Therefore, take time to define your goals and set the best objectives to enhance your chances of starting a successful business.
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