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Financiers decode business plans, looking for the secrets of probable success. If yours shows a customer-driven opportunity that your company's talent, passion and skin in the game can actually pull off, they're more likely to be impressed.
When cash flow turned positive and profits started coming in, the co-founder of an Internet start-up sought his advisory board's approval for new expenses. What he got was a barrage of questions: "Where are next year's projections? What's your mission statement?" As the business grew, the board made sure it stayed on track financially, raising prices as well as morale. And when the company was acquired, everybody cashed in.
Sue Hesse left a corporate career and started her own business so she could cut down on her travel schedule and raise her children. By the time she sold it to spend more time with them, she had learned that even in an old-fashioned industry, numbers could outweigh gender. Performance-based incentive compensation turned out to be the strategy that propelled her and other women forward. Getting support from other entrepreneurs, male or female, is her other key to success.
When Frieda Caplan went into business for herself, she was the only woman in the produce industry. That gave her a national presence, but the real reason for her success was that her company filled an important niche. Now it's the leading distributor of specialty fruits and vegetables. Along the way, the founder learned some important lessons about financing. And she's still going to work every day-with her daughters.
Founding a business was so much fun for three Harvard juniors that they did it several times--until they found something that worked. They begged, bartered and borrowed resources, with a little help from their folks. And, because they knew their industry and added value as managers, they grew their temp agency for Web professionals into a permanent, international leader.
Businesses become more valuable when they have certain characteristics that add up to strategic advantages in the marketplace. Regardless of a company's ultimate objective--growth, acquisition or IPO--its owners can create, maximize and sustain value by driving it toward those characteristics. A management consultant explains the tools of his trade and reminds readers that price and value are not identical. Some factors, such as growth, are industry-specific, which is why new-economy companies and their stocks are fetching such extraordinary prices.
The founder of a software development business had already agreed to be acquired by one company and was ready to sign the documents. Then another company came calling with a better offer. Loyal employees and a working partnership with the buyer turned out to be the crucial assets constituting the value of the business. The author concludes that you need to shop around and negotiate to find out what your company is really worth.
When you get out there thinking you're the most important member of the team, you're headed for failure, says Wally Amos. The founder of Famous Amos Cookies found out the hard way that you can't just indulge your whims and let the chocolate chips fall where they may. How he developed a spiritual understanding, recovered his good name and started a new, more successful company serves as a great recipe for other entrepreneurs.
As his online entertainment business became successful, founder David Ellington needed more employees with mid-level technical skills. Filling those jobs with well-trained young people of color became this entrepreneur's way of giving back to his community by creating a model program that benefits everyone. Not only that, he's creating wealth as he brings disadvantaged youth into the high-tech mainstream with good salaries and stock options.
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.
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