Book Review – The Ho Chi Minh Guerilla Warfare Handbook

by David Yurth.

How did the leader of tiny North Vietnam get the mighty USA out of his country? Likewise, how does an underfunded innovator compete in an industry that makes more money treating the problem than it would by simply solving it? Cancer, pollution, garbage, water, food…

You may just find that you and your idea just aren’t welcome here! In the BizPlanBuilder business plan software template, we include a section that delves into, “If you win, who loses?” to make sure that you identify and consider some potential hidden enemies to your success, in addition to direct competitors. If you’ve really solved a problem, you may be in danger — Nikola Tesla, Royal Rife…

Think of this book as a modern Art of War for technology innovators. I’m here to support solutions succeeding it in our world. If you have such a solution, please read this book!

Click to access the publisher’s page >>

BOOK review: The Ho Chi Minh Guerilla Warfare Handbook

by David Yurth.

How did the leader of North Vietnam get the USA out of his country? Likewise, how does an underfunded innovator compete in an industry that makes more money treating the problem than it would by simply solving it? Cancer, pollution, garbage, water, food…

You may just find that you and your idea just isn’t welcome here! In the BizPlanBuilder business plan software template, we include a section that delves into, “If you win, who loses?” to make sure that you identify and consider some potential hidden enemies to your success in addition to direct competitors. If you’ve really solved a problem, you may be in danger — Nikola Tesla, Royal Rife…

Think of this book as a modern Art of War for technology innovators. I’m here to support solutions succeeding it in our world. If you have such a solution, please read this book!

[dt_button size="small" style="default" animation="none" color_mode="default" icon="" icon_align="left" color="" link="" target_blank="true"]Click to access the publisher’s page >>[/dt_button]

Why Segment Your Market?

In our last post, we talked about how to segment your market. Why will you want to do this, though? It is only human to ask the question- how will this benefit ME? To put it simply, knowing your market will allow you to determine your target customer.

Target Customers

Now that you’ve segmented the market and determined the who, the what, the where and the why, you’ll find it helpful to focus on a few key groups such as “families” or “young couples.” Base this information on your research (you didn’t just do it for fun) and determine the groups who are most likely to be drawn to your product or service. You’ve determined these segments already, now you need to answer the question WHY will these people spend their money with you?

Be sure to credit your sources with any information cited, including yourself. If you conducted extensive market surveys and/or analyses, you may want to attach more information on the methodology and any other pertinent discoveries you made along the way in the supplementary documents section of your plan.

Define both your primary and secondary target consumers. The primary target is simple enough- who will be the main customer that your business will pursue? Secondary targets will include the business that you receive as a consequence of doing business with your primary target. For example, if your primary target is children ages 5-15, you may receive additional business from their parents and/or grandparents, which would make up a portion your secondary market.

S.W.O.T. AnalysisFile:SWOT en.svg

So, you’ve done the research on the market demographics and its size and condition and it’s time to bring it all together with what we like to call the SWOT (a.k.a. SLOT) Analysis. This is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses (or limitations), Opportunities and Threats. Unlike many things in life, this really is as simple as it sounds. Think of strengths and weaknesses as the internal factors that will influence your success while opportunities and threats are the external factors that will influence success.

  • Strengths: What attributes does your product or service have that will give it a strategic advantage over others?
  • Weaknesses: What attributes does your product or service lack that will put it at a disadvantage compared to other products in the market?
  • Opportunities: What is available to you in your environment that will increase the chance of your success?
  • Threats: What is out there that could be bad for business?

Address these questions for each of your products you will offer. How does your product differ from that of your competitors? In delivery? Performance? Pricing? I know I’ve said it before- but how do you stand out from the rest? What makes you special? Describe how current products and technologies can be leveraged. Describe the cost of entry, time-frame and risk in the market.

What does your SWOT Analysis tell you?

Image courtesy of Xhienne (SWOT pt.svg) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Segmenting Your Market

In our last post, we talked about two important factors for your market analysis, the market size and the market conditions. Today we’re going to talk about demographics which will allow you to segment your market. After you segment your market, you will be better able to understand who your target customer will be and you will know more about the stability of your market.

Geographic Segmentation

Identify your region and the characteristics of the region to enhance your knowledge of the market. Narrow the area of your customers by identifying what country, state and city your target customer most likely resides in. If you are offering services to customers in a specific region, determine the size in population of the area. Need help? Use the census website to determine population of certain US regions. Be sure to break your findings down by county.

Demographic Segmentation

Using demographics such as age and gender will help you to understand WHO you are targeting and how. This section of your plan should contain answers to questions such as: What is the age range of your target customer? Under what income bracket does your target customer fall? What is the typical level of education of your target customer?

Psychographic and Behavioral Segmentation

Now you need to determine the beliefs and habits of your target customer. Describe their lifestyle. What are their interests and activities? What opinions and attitudes do they hold? Research done in this section will allow you to better understand your target market. This section should answer questions such as: Based on the age group of your target customer, what activities are they most likely to participate in? Based on their attitudes and opinions, what values do your target customers generally hold? How brand loyal are your target customers? How ready is your target customer to buy your product or service?

Answers to these questions will allow you better understand your customers (which is important) and will help you to determine who constitutes your target market. This will allow you to easily reach those customers.

Do the demographics of your target market support your plan?

Creating a Winning Marketing Strategy

I know, I know- everyone wants to read about the Executive Summary- but let’s show the marketing plan a little love…

So you’ve started your plan and you’ve reached the marketing strategy. Of course, you’ve already read our previous post, Components of a Business Plan part 2, but you want something a little more in depth. So how do you write a great marketing strategy? What do you need to write about? What do you need to think about? Your marketing strategy should analyze both your physical market (size, conditions, demographics) and your market’s trends (what’s going on in your target market?).

Market Size

The market size is not as cut and dry as it sounds. This section should not only describe the size of the market (it should do this), but should also describe other factors that will impact your success. How many customers are currently purchasing similar products or services? Don’t forget- if you’re B2B this would include other businesses. How much money is being spent in your market (combined annual revenue)? How many companies would be in competition with you? Is your market confined to your local area? If no, is it a national market? A global one? Use industry overviews to jump start this section and then get more specific once you have the overview in place. Remember to site your sources.

Market Conditions

What is the condition of your market? Is it growing? Shrinking? Stagnant? You can get a good foundation on the conditions of a market from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. View the number of customers and the revenues of the top five companies in your market or industry. Use this information to glean a basic understanding of your market (to answer the questions stated above) and then do some supporting research to get the specifics.

How do you define your market?

Components of a Business Plan (Part 3)

Written by Burke Franklin, founder and CEO, JIAN

This is part 3 of 3.  If you missed parts 1 and 2, pick your poison- Part 1, where we talked about the executive summary or Part 2, where we talked about the market analysis and strategy. Let’s drive this puppy home.

11. Management Team- What’s a nice person like you doing in a business like this? How does your background and that of your management team qualify you for driving the venture to success? Can you do this? Really?

Who have you hired to help you pull this off? In a way, you are providing a mini-interview with your management team members to ensure an investor, banker or corporate manager that you have lined up the right people to make your project work. This is a crucial section of your plan- the only thing that will ensure success is the day-to-day activity of qualified people at the wheel following a plan toward a vision.

12. Present Situation- Provide readers with a snapshot of what you have accomplished so far. Patent filed, prototype working, etc. This will change as you work on your business so be sure to keep this section updated. It gives readers a starting point to understand where you are currently and what value you have created to this point. The idea is to continue building value in your business – the longer the investor waits, the higher the valuation.

13. Financial Plan and Projections- Describe your current financial picture, your projections for growth, tell your reader what sort of funding you will need (how much? when? for what?) and explain how you will pay it back. This section addresses your ability to make money in your proposed business and details how much money you will need. Your company’s capital requirements and the profit potential are demonstrated here. The supporting financial statements include the following:

  • Revenue and expense assumptions
  • 12-month budget, including your start-up requirements
  • 12-month and 5-year income statement, cash-flow projection and pro-forma balance sheet
  • Break-even analysis
  • Sources and uses of funds summary
  • Sensitivity analysis showing pessimistic, planned and optimistic scenarios
  • Capitalization table
  • A projection of your company’s value after 5 years is very useful

Are your financials believable? I’ve never met an investor who believed any projections beyond 5 years. Their “financial attention span” is fairly short and most investors will want to be out with their profit within 5 years. Investment performance, measured in ROI, takes time into consideration- the more they get and the sooner they get it- the better they did. The idea is to get ‘em in, make ‘em rich and get ‘em out!

14. Supporting Documents- Here is where you can add your collection of extra information you felt was too detailed for the body of the plan but would be helpful for a reader’s understanding of points or conclusions you’ve made. It can include copies of various financial statements, brochures, resumes, media kits, schedules, advertising, complete objective list, etc.

You may already have more of this material than you think. You may be able to put all of that knowledge floating around in your head or written in notes and memos to work for you. They’re sitting there now- just waiting to be organized into your plan. You may even have one or more documents already written, such as a budget or a resume, that can be used as is or inserted into the right plan section. The information you already know or have developed to this point should not go to waste! It will speed the plan writing process. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

This is a basic list of business plan components- but there can be more. What do you think? Did we miss anything?

Components of a Business Plan (Part 2)

Written by Burke Franklin, Founder and CEO, JIAN

We talked last week about the beginning sections of your business plan. If you haven’t read it yet, click here to play catch up. This is part 2 of 3, so make sure to check back with us soon.

7. Company Overview- Give readers the basic information on your business. Describe your company and its organization. Give the legal name, form, current stage of development, etc.

8. Products and Services Strategy- Describe what you will do and how you will do it.  Tell readers about your products or services and why you chose to or plan to develop them. How are they made, priced and delivered? Use this section to review your current product or service and set you apart from the rest. Include your future research and product development plans- but don’t go crazy- outline your plans, but save the demo for requests only.

9. Market Analysis- Present research and conclusions about the industry you will serve. Who are your customers? Who are your competitors? Why will your products or services compete and excel? This section will help you to understand your market and see the demographics and psychographics of your target customers. You’ll learn more about your competitor’s products and services, and both business and environmental risks. Who is going to buy from you? Why will they choose you over someone else? Find 10 prospective people or companies and find out what they need and what problems they are having. Can you bridge this gap? How?

10. Marketing Plan and Strategy- Sure, the world will “beat a path to your door”… but only if they know who you are, what you’ve got and how to reach you. How are you going to create awareness, interest and demand? Base your answers on your market analysis and other plan data. Explain how you will actually sell your product to those customers. Include information on selling methods, distribution channels, advertising and promotions, pricing and profitability, public relations and business relationships. How will you use the reader’s money to efficiently market your product to your customers? This is not something that can be put off: this strategy is not only a key component of your plan, it will help define your business from now on.

Don’t forget to look for part 3 soon.

Components of a Business Plan (Part 1)

Written by Burke Franklin, CEO and founder, JIAN

The plan is nothing. The planning is everything.”      – Dwight D. Eisenhower

There may have been a day when people read business plans cover to cover. Not anymore.  When they get close to giving you money, they might, but first you have to grab their interest and answer their questions. Organize your plan like a reference guide. This will allow readers to turn directly to the information they want to see. Different people will want to know different things; some things are more important to some people than to others. The components of a business plan and a brief description of each part’s function are described below.

  1. Cover Letter- Tailor and introduce your plan to a specific audience. This section may need to be rewritten for different groups of investors.
  2. Non-Disclosure Statement- Ask your reader (politely) not to discuss this plan with anyone else.
  3. Title Page- The title page will give potential investors their first impression of your venture, along with the name, address, phone number and email address of the company and the CEO. For your first impression, make a bold, clean visual statement about your company.
  4. Table of Contents- Ideally, your business plan will be a reference guide to your business and not a novel or a thesis. Number your pages. Start each section on a new page. Colored tabs dividing each section immediately make your plan more visually appealing and easier to use. When I reviewed a number of plans during a business planning competition at the University of Texas, I was drawn to the plans with the colored tabs- the other judges admitted that they were, too.
  5. Executive Summary- This portion of your plan summarizes the highlights. This will be read first by investors (so make sure it is easy to find). Get to the point and be interesting- explain why your business is a great investment. If you lose your readers here, forget having them read any further. Remember to answer the questions outlined in our recent post, ‘What Investors Want to Know….’ This is a snapshot of the present state of your business plus a brief description of where your business is going and what it will look like when you get there. Write this summary AFTER you have completed your plan and keep it under three pages. Click here for a more detailed look at the all important Executive Summary.
  6. Company Direction- Tell your reader about the identity of your business and where it is headed. Include your vision and mission statements. This is the part that, throughout history, has made the difference between great leaders and failures. Your vision comprises your emotional drive to build your business to be something great that others can get behind. State your objectives: Where are you going? What will it take? What will you do with THEIR money? Investors want to know how and when they’ll make zillions on their investment in your business.

Check back tomorrow for part 2. Just like your business, your business plan needs to have something that sets it apart from the others. It needs to show your passion as well as your plan. You know that your business is the next great thing- how will you show that to someone else?

What Investors Want to Know… (Cont’d)

When you’re writing your business plan, you want to make sure to highlight what sets you apart from other businesses.  A good way to do this was put forward by Scott Miller, co-founder of Core Strategy Group, small business coach for and co-author of the books ‘The Underdog Advantage’ and ‘Building Brandwidth.’  When writing your plan, make sure you provide answers to these key components at some point…

  • For [target customers]
  • Who have [compelling reason to buy]
  • Our product is a [product category]
  • That provides [key benefit which solves a problem]
  • Unlike [competitor in your product category]
  • We have [key point of differentiation]

So, putting this model into practice for the JIAN Online BizPlan Builder, we get…

  • For:… all business people.
  • Who Have:… a need for resources to help start or grow their business(es).
  • Our Product Is:… an easy-to-use, template based business planning software.
  • That Provides:… everything you need to build a great business plan in a secure, easy to access, online environment.
  • Unlike:… other business plan builders that are more expensive, less intuitive or installed on ONLY your computer.
  • We Have:… a proven system and templates that have been used successfully in the past to acquire SBA loans coupled with a financial wizard and expert video help at every section.

Answering these questions will tell you more about your product and your opportunity. So, what makes your business so special?

What Investors Want to Know…

Written by Burke Franklin, Founder and CEO, JIAN

For a moment, put yourself in an investor’s position (actually, do this throughout the plan writing process). What would YOU want to know about a business before you invested in it? Think about investing money in a friend’s business to get the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual experience of GIVING AWAY YOUR CASH. Now, more than ever, you must be convincing to the bone.  Expect that competent people with money will want to feel comfortable with you and the answers you give.  You will find that, no matter who you are and what you are doing, you will need answers to these basic questions…

  • Who are you?
  • Why are you in business?
  • What is the opportunity here?
  • How big is the market?
  • What will you sell?
  • How will your business be structured?
  • How will you make money?
  • Who are your competitors and what makes you better than them?
  • Who are your most important customers and how will you reach them?
  • Do you have any strategic partners?
  • Who are the people running your business and what experience do you/they have?
  • Who are your advisors?
  • What have you accomplished so far?
  • What still needs to be accomplished and how will you accomplish this?
  • How much money do you need to start/grow?
  • What will you do with my money?
  • How much money will investors make?
  • When and how will investors make their money back?

Your Executive Summary will either inspire an investor emotionally or not (that’s how most people make decisions). This will only open the door to further discussion and exploration.  The rest of your plan must give people the whole story complete with proof, logic and an introduction to the principles who will build and run the business.

When you approach investors with a complete plan A) you will have the above answers firmly in your head, B) you will be able to speak with certainty, C) your plan will have written documentation that adds credibility, D) having done the math, you will feel great about your prospects for personal wealth as well as a huge payoff for your investor(s).

Hopefully, at some point down the road, you will be in a position to become an investor for another person’s million dollar idea. Who will you be in that place? What would they have to show you to get you to invest in their dreams?

What is a Business Plan?

Written by Burke Franklin, founder and CEO, JIAN

A business plan is a written document used to describe your business.  The sections of a business plan are fairly standard, so you can find lots of help from those that have gone before you.

Each section in a business plan has a specific purpose.  Certain sections can be as short as one page.  For example, a plan for a small, simple business may be as short as 8-10 pages.  Be assured, though, that each step of this process can be relatively painless and ultimately quite rewarding.

Many business people, however, do not write or use business plans.  Do you suppose that the guy running the local TV repair shop wrote one?  Do you think your beautician wrote one?  Well, if they received an SBA loan, then they did.  Sure, you can do business without a plan, but consider the benefits of knowing where you’re going.  Most businesses that fail have no written business plan, while many studies have shown that those companies with business plans have a higher probability of success.

People write business plans for a variety of reasons, the most important (although this is usually left unstated) is to be taken seriously.  If your business cannot be taken seriously, then you will not achieve your purpose.  The most common reason for writing a business plan is to obtain fundingSee below for some more common reasons for writing a business plan.

  • Attracting key employees into your company
  • Convincing key suppliers to give you credit
  • Creating a brochure for a business broker to use in selling your company
  • Presenting your business to investors, key suppliers and other vendors
  • Designing a prospectus to sell stock in your company
  • Attracting business partners and forming strategic alliances
  • Ensuring that all company employees have a common goal
  • Collecting your thoughts on how to run the business (this helps to monitor progress and make course corrections when necessary)

Why does your business need a business plan?  Does it?