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How to Use Graphs and Charts in Your Business Plan
Many people ask how many graphs or charts they should have in their business plans. As with most other business planning questions, the answer is "it depends." This article discusses the key factors influencing the number of graphs and charts to include in your business plan.
To begin, the key point to consider in developing your business plan is the time restraints of your audience. If your audience is a retired angel investor, he may have few obligations and can spend an hour reviewing your business plan. However, the more likely scenario is that a venture capitalist, corporate investor or loan officer will review your plan while sitting at a desk topped with fifty other business plans. As such, it is critical that your plan conveys its key points quickly and easily ? this is where graphs or charts come in.
In determining whether to use a graph or chart, consider the old adage, "a picture is worth a thousand words." The point here is that the picture should save a thousand words. That is, the graph or chart should supplement the text; it should not be explained ad naseum in the text, or that defeats its purpose. Likewise, the graph or chart must be relevant and support the text, rather than detract from it.
In addition to respecting the time constraints of the audience, the business plan must respect the audience's energy level. That is, after reading seven business plans, an investor is likely to skip a page with 400 words of straight text. Even if no charts are applicable to support the page, Growthink suggests using appropriate spacing and/or callout boxes (e.g., key text phrases highlighted in boxes) to make the page more readable.
Clearly, technical drawings and operational designs need to be visually presented in the business plan. Without them, huge volumes of text are often needed to explain relatively simple processes. Importantly, when the text references these charts, the charts should be easily accessible. That is, the chart should be on the same page as the text, rather than forcing the audience to continually turn to an appendix. If the chart is referenced on numerous pages, each page should show the piece of the chart that reflects the text, with the full chart appearing only once in the plan.
Finally, if the business plan is being presented to one or few investors, the amount of graphs and charts should reflect the wants, needs and sophistication of those few readers. For instance, if the plan is being presented only to strategic investors who understand the market, more graphs may be appropriate to convey information for which these investors already have background knowledge.
Conversely, always keep in mind that the plan is not a slide presentation, and too many graphs and charts may position the company as one that is too lazy to complete the process of developing a formal business plan.
To summarize, the amount of charts and graphs used in the business plan must reflect the audience for the plan; an audience that is usually time and energy constrained. The charts and graphs must complement the text, enable the audience to quickly and easily digest the information, and as always, interest the audience in taking the next step (e.g., scheduling an in-person meeting) in the investment process.
As President of Growthink Business Plans, Dave Lavinsky has helped the company become one of the premier business plan development firms. Since its inception, Growthink has developed over 200 business plans. Growthink clients have collectively raised over $750 million in financing, launched numerous new product and service lines and gained competitive advantage and market share.
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My colleague, Jane, recently lamented to me an all too familiar story about mixing business and friendship. Jane subcontracted copywriting work out her friend, Joan. Jane's copywriting business was blossoming (partly in response to her most recent brilliant article marketing campaign) and giving the work to Joan seemed like a win-win for both of them.
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Buyers want both online and local information about where to buy Most small businesses are local in nature, serving people who live nearby. Their customers found them through traditional methods like the Yellow Pages or newspaper ads. So far, the Internet hasn't figured prominently in their marketing efforts. That's about to change, as Local Search methods become more widespread. Even for buyers expecting to spend their money close to home, more and more of them go to the Internet to locate desired products and services. They rely on search engines to find suitable vendors in the fastest, easiest way. Local Search combines the search query word or phrase with specific geographic terms, like city or zip code. That way, search results only include enterprises in that local area. Instead of information about a small enterprise being lost among millions of pages of search results, it shows up in a small pool of local providers. That's good for them, as well as the person looking for what they provide. Small operations can easily be located by a whole new group of buyers Consumers don't simply go to the Yellow Pages when ready to buy - as they once did. Studies show that an astonishing 36% of online searches are conducted to find local businesses. About a quarter of all Internet users already conduct local searches. They'd do even more of it, if the desired small business data were more complete. Local enterprises need to prepare for the impact of changing customer habits. An easy first step is to include your business in Internet Yellow Pages (IYP), along with the printed Yellow Page directory. That puts your enterprise on the radar screen. Learn how your business can make the most of Local Search by visiting http://www.yellowpagesage.com. You'll find reliable advice from experts in Yellow Pages and Local Search so you can get more mileage from your promotional dollars. Start by getting comfortable with search concepts, and improve your odds of being found when people search online for what you offer. You don't even need your own Web site to benefit from Internet Yellow Pages and Local Search. Learn the Relevant Terms Search Engine - method for locating the information available on the Internet; a program that searches Web pages for requested keywords, then returns a list of documents where the query terms were found Google and Yahoo, the major general search engines, have both shifted gears to make Local Search a priority when delivering relevant results. Spider (also called "crawler" or "bot") - goes to every page on every Web site and reads the information so it can be available to searchers; to "crawl" a site it collects and indexes information from it Specialized Search Engines - narrow focus of information crawled and indexed, like medical, business, or shopping sites Keywords - word or phrases used by search engines to locate relevant Web pages; words chosen to improve a site's search engine placement and ranking Search Query - search request, which the search engine compares to the spidered entries, then returns results to the searcher Search Results - compiled list of Web pages that a search engine delivers in response to a query; the number of items returned is usually overwhelming (in the millions), so searchers only bother to view results on the first pages Relevant Results - the test of a good search is whether the results obtained relate to what the person wanted to find, without a lot of irrelevant links Local Search - combining a geographic term in a search query to locate suitable providers in a specific area Pay per Click (PPC) - method of building traffic whereby site owners bid on search terms (keywords) that link to their site Geographic Terms - specific information about the local area that can be included in a local search: zip code, town, county, geographic region, state Top Ranking - sites shown on the first page(s) of search results Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - fine-tuning keywords and page content so the Web site rates high in search engine results Tags and Titles (on Web Pages) - provide site keywords and information to search engine spiders for indexing a site Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) - directory of business phone numbers and locations in a geographic area, organized by category; searchable data base accessed on the Internet Make your business easy for searchers to find The public is embracing the convenience of searching on the Internet to find information about local businesses. However, their searches for desired information are compromised because so many local enterprises don't show up in the databases as yet. Those that do have an edge in their local market. Climb aboard! Make sure searchers can find you. For little or no money, you can expose your enterprise to the whole world. Whether or not your business has a Web site, you need to provide the information people are looking for in the places that they look for it. Local Search and Internet Yellow Pages open new avenues to buyers ready to spend. Best of all, they support and compliment your traditional methods of finding new business. So you cover all your bases. (c)2004, Lynella Grant
Mobile Carwash; Senior Citizens and Mobile Homes
Senior citizens are generally not a large marketing segment for mobile detailers or car washers, however, they should not be ignored. You will find in a near by area a seniors-only mobile home park. You will also find square dance clubs and senior centers. All of these places can be extremely good places to look for new business. If you want to accelerate word of mouth advertising, you should meet with people in these groups. Wash cars at senior centers while they play cards. Hand out flyers, etc.
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Washing the exterior of a truck. Sounds easy right? Well, it's not really. When you soap a truck, it is very important that you are careful to soap around all the handles, turn signal lights, steps, and wipers. You want to soap all that stuff by hand. Use a one-foot by one foot lamb's wool square-not a mitt, they don't work well. You can use a brush for the rest of the truck, but you have to get in around the handles and stuff by hand. There is no shortcut if you wish to maintain quality.
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Habit: A consistent behavior you perform so frequently that it is automatic.
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In general, all of us know how to accomplish the task and get the work done. The problem is in how to actually 'get paid' for what we do. If you, like me and most of the entrepreneurs I've worked with, have completed the project, turned it in and been left holding the proverbial bag waiting to be paid for months on end, you are probably just as tired of that scenario as the rest of us. So what can we, as entrepreneurs, do about that particular scenario?
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We hear a lot of talk about junk mail nowadays. Many people will tell you that they dump it straight in the trash. But why do you think so many organisations send out so called junk mail - because it works!
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Announcements can be handed out as a business card
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