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Entrepreneurs need a "just-right" business plan, one that provides a measuring stick for fast growth without overtaking performance, writes this computer-consulting entrepreneur.
A formal business plan, often considered an anathema to entrepreneurs who fancy themselves "do-ers" rather than thinkers, enables clear thinking, clarity of purpose and a benchmark against which ventures can measure success. Included are a list of do's and don'ts for entrepreneurs new to (or bewildered by) the essential planning process.
A business plan for entrepreneurs should engage the heart as well as the head, writes the author, who advises two plans-the formal document for bankers and investors, and then, the business plan that comes from your heart.
Make e-mail your ally to enhance the way you market and sell products and services over the Internet, writes this technological entrepreneur. As you turn to e-commerce, turn first to e-mail to develop a list of potential customers who also want to hear from you, get the word out about your offerings, and eventually customize your pitches for individual buyers, the author advises. Just avoid the big e-mail no-no: spamming.
Age is an issue for today's entrepreneurs, especially those in technology-based businesses, writes the author, who founded an Internet company right out of college. Younger entrepreneurs, he argues, are more likely than their elders to be technologically astute and to be creative and flexible, attributes that are integral to their companies and enable those enterprises to succeed. The author includes tips for using youth as an advantage in business.
Entrepreneurs of a certain age need to accommodate the changes in attitude on the part of the younger generation or risk becoming dinosaurs, writes the author, who turned to entrepreneurship after a career in the U.S. Army and at a major corporation. Today's young people are technologically savvy, casual about dress and deportment, and forward about expecting to advance at a younger age, he says. He includes tips for adjusting one's management style to help -- rather than change -- the new generation.
Accepting a loan from the most respectable source of business financing--namely a commercial bank--is a mistake for some entrepreneurs, argues the author, who recounts the tale of her company's demise subsequent to her signing a bank loan with overly stringent terms. She includes four pointers that can help you flag loans likely to go bad.
Entrepreneurs could give their budding companies a powerful financial boost by using a source of funding usually considered off limits--the retirement kitty. The author, a certified financial planner, does, however, caution company builders to leave a portion of those funds intact, using more accessible sources first. Thereafter, he argues, tax-deferred assets in a 401(k), SEP, or IRA comprise a personal venture capital fund that can do as much for an individual's business as for his or her golden years.
Credit cards, unlike conventional commercial bank loans, allow entrepreneurs immediate access to financing at reasonable interest rates. The author, who used plastic debt to launch a consulting company, claims that business owners who take his approach can focus on the far more crucial task of winning and keeping customers in today's fast-paced environment. What's critical, he suggests, is managing the debt wisely by keeping costs down, taking advantage of lower rates, and pegging expenditures to cash flow.
As what is known as one-to-one marketing takes hold, entrepreneurs must take the measure of customers as individuals and provide precisely what each customer craves--or risk extinction. The author advises consumer-oriented businesses to listen, probe, and touch, gathering information about each potential buyer, asking open-ended questions, and keeping in contact on a regular basis.
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