Three Keys to Defining Employee Roles

Chances are your start-up’s employee list includes yourself plus maybe a handful of other employees. That means a lot of work of varying nature has to be split among a few different people. Combinations of marketing, finance, development, planning, etc. have to be done by potentially the same individual.
 
Such a scenario is unavoidable early on but that does not mean that job roles cannot be defined. A lack of definition to job roles at any stage leads to disastrous results. It is not a matter of if it will catch up to you; it is a matter of when. With this mind it is important to define three things associated with any individual within the company. They are the tasks associated with the position, the responsibilities, and specific success
metrics.
 

Position Tasks

 
Position tasks is straight-forward. It should be clearly defined day-to-day activities that a person will carry out on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. These tasks combine to create some kind of deliverable the individual is expected to produce. Clearly defining these tasks not only gives the employee a sense of what they do but also how it should be accomplished.
 

Responsibilities

 
Responsibilities could be summed using other words such as roles or deliverables. Essentially these are the expectation set for an employee. At the end of the day what do they need to deliver in order to ensure company success. Examples could be specific reports, efficiencies, or product developments.
 

Success Metrics

 
Tasks and responsibilities have no worth if they cannot be measured. When defining individual roles it is important that a standard be set for what needs to be delivered, when it needs to be delivered, and what it should cost. And of course, accountability must be expected for this to function properly. Good success metrics will not only promote individual growth but will increase organizational performance.
It is never too early to begin defining roles using these three criteria. It will help your start-up and those who make it become everything they can be.

Is Growth Synonymous with Success?

Headlines are filled with fairly young, fast-growing, and high-selling start-ups. Stories of ridiculous and probably unsustainable paces of growth capture our ears and lead us to dream of great things to come. We hope we could have such an opportunity to see our business explode overnight. Come on, who hasn’t been there as we scour over the news on a daily basis? It truly is fascinating but is that what we should an exemplary model of success?
 
In the planning stages it is critical that we define our own standard of success. For some it may be light-year speed growth followed by an impressive and gaudy acquisition figure. For others it may be revenue or cost figures, life-span, or their impact on the world around them. Truly it is different for each of us.
 
It would be difficult to determine if one is absolutely better than the others. I know I have my preferences and you have yours. The question is almost philosophical and could be argued over and over again. But to answer the title question I would say; No, growth is not synonymous with success. Growth is a part of success and most likely a necessary step to obtaining success but it is not the one in the same.
 
Growth can be rapid and inconsistent or it may be slower and consistent. It depends on your planned strategies, campaigns, and business model. Frankly, it also depends on some factors that are outside of our control such product demand and economic conditions.
 

Control Your Growth in Order to Obtain Success

 
While growth may occur in several different ways one thing always remains constant for any start-up: Growth must be controlled. Out of control growth nearly almost always dooms any new start-up because of increased costs, inability to meet demand, and other structural/organizational demands. This requires planning and discipline as a company from the beginning. Controlling the speed of growth allows companies to excel at what they do best and in a long-term, sustainable manner. As you create your business plan, consider the pace at which you want to grow and what processes you will put in place to help manage this some-what unmanageable variable.
 

Be Successful

 
At the end of the day it is your business so make it what you want to it to be. Just because you are not one of the fast-paced, high-selling start-ups doesn’t mean that you are not experiencing success. Each industry and niche market is different and leads to different yields and returns. Find what works best for you. Some of the most exemplary businesses across the globe are small to medium-sized firms that no one has ever seemed to have heard. And they like it like that. That is their definition of success and we all could learn a thing or two out to their book. The key lesson here is not to base your own success on what is occurring around you, but to define success early on in your company’s life-span and work towards that. Have a game plan and be flexible as necessary. That will help you control your growth and earn yourself a sustainable and successful business.

Four Considerations for Monetizing Your Idea

Everyone wants to create a business out of their interests, passions, or ideas but finding out how can be tricky. Monetizing your business idea can be a difficult process that every entrepreneur faces. So, you’ve reached that step where you have an idea and want to monetize it, what things should you think about? Let’s take a look at a four early considerations for monetizing your idea.
 

Keep Your Debt Low

 
The early stages for introducing a new product or starting a new business are filled with a lot of trial and error.
This can be in business processes or simply product development. Any way you shake it, starting a business is a learning process. It is vital for future success that you are not swimming in debt before your product even hits the market. Set a number for the amount of debt you are willing to take on in early product development, seek investors, or bootstrap the early stages of getting your idea of the ground.
 

Determine and Understand Your Target Market

 
This could be the most important question you’ll ask yourself as you start your business: Who is going to buy my product? Without clients and customers you don’t have a business. They are the foundation to monetizing your idea. Test your product, find the type of people it attracts, and further adapt it to meet their needs.
 
A couple months ago I spoke with a college student trying to create a new product for women. He took it to a convention in order to introduce his idea for the first time with the hopes of getting sales off the ground. Over the weekend he sold a handful of the many products already produced but the number of sales were definitely discouraging. But from the event he received valuable information about his target market. He found that something as small as color affected sales in older demographics and that the current brighter colors were not selling. So he made two changes: Began to produce more traditional colors and began to market to much younger demographics.
The event was very beneficial for him and really cost effective. Try something similar in order to test your product before getting too carried away. This will help you understand who your target market is.
 

Find Distribution Channels

 
After finding your target market it is important to consider how your product will be delivered in a cost-effective manner. Consider if you will open your own store, sell to already existing retailers, or do your business completely online. Finding efficient and cost-effective distribution channels can make or break your business.
 

Price

 
Last but not least is price. There is no way around it, price almost always matters. Once again, test your product and this includes pricing. Adopt one or several pricing strategies that work for you and your market. Example pricing strategies include but are not limited to; penetration, skimming, premium, cost-based, and competition. Before setting price before you consider your own costs, competition pricing, and your target market’s willingness to pay.
 
These four considerations will help you find a way to monetize your new idea in a smart way. Where there is will there is always a way to make your ideas, interests, or passions into a monetized product/service.

Writing Business Plans – The Executive Summary

Writing a business plan can be a complicated task leaving you asking questions like, “Where do I start and what is an executive summary?”
 
Normally, a business plan starts with an executive summary that is synopsis of what your business does and how you intend to run your business. In short, an executive summary is a summary of your business plan. Let’s take a look at a few strategies to writing a great business summary.
 

Is an Executive Summary Necessary?

 
A very simplistic view of the executive summary is that it is the resume of your business plan. Often, investors, CEO’s, and other executives will only read the executive summary and based off that decide to read the rest of your business plan. In fact it is rare that the entire business plan will be read. A great executive summary will get you the “interview” needed to land the backing for your business. You are writing the executive summary to get future attention from executives, be that they read your business plan or meet with you face-to-face.
 

Audience and Voice

 
Normally, business plans are written as a proposal of your business idea in order to gain backing, funding, and other support for your business. Banks, venture capitalists, and other investors want to see that you have fleshed out all the important components to making a successful business. They want to see financial projections that prove you will be profitable in the future. Basically you are showing them that the potential gain outweighs the risk. Keeping your audience in mind is important. Write in a tone that relates to them such as writing in financial terms. These guys will love that you can speak their language and are more likely to offer needed capital to you when they see you are familiar with these terms. Take the time to learn terms like ROI, Liquidity, etc. This can only help you impress them not only with your ideas but with business savvy as well.
 

An Executive Summary is a Summary

 
An executive summary is usually between one and four pages pending the size of the business plan. Most importantly your writing needs to be clear and concise. Avoid clichés and expressions. Keep a professional tone that resonates with the background of your targeted audience. The executive summary should be a brief look at what your company does. Include relevant information that will draw the reader’s attention without boring them because of length. Your writing should strategically focus on what you want them to focus on then leave them wanting to know more.
 
Take time to proof-read your summary. Have others proof-read your summary. In fact, get people who are not well-versed in business to read your summary, they will be a good measure of how well you have explained your business. If they can read your summary and explain back to you what your business does then you have written in a clear and concise way. Remember the end goal of the executive summary is to clearly present your idea in a way that executives will want to know more.

Marketing Plan for Your Start-up

Strategically Marketing Your Start-up

 
You are just starting your new business, have a great product/service, and the only thing stopping you is finding buyers. Starting out you are a small company competing against large firms, how can you compete and sell? Creating a marketing strategy plan will help you effectively do this going forward just as a financial plan helps you spend wisely. The key to your marketing strategy will be your ability to 1) Understand your target market, 2) Create new customers, and 3) Retain new customers.
 

Finding Your Target Market

 
The importance of choosing and understanding your target market can be exemplified by the Segway Scooters that were first released in 2001 as revolutionary form of transportation. Originally the Segway was going to be newest and greatest way to get around for walking pedestrians and commuters. In this target market the Segway never took off for several reasons and as a result Segway suffered for years after its release. While Segway Scooters are still not seen being used by the public masses, Segway has managed to find greater success by simply changing its own target market. Now, Segways can be seen more often being used by airport, mall, and park police and in several tourism outlets. The product itself has not changed much over the course of the last decade; all that has changed is who Segway exclusively markets to. This change has quite possibly saved the company.
The key to a successful company and product does not simply lie in creating a great product but also requires presenting and marketing to the right people. Every marketing strategy plan should include some discussion, analysis, and conclusion as to who this target market should include.
 

Build a Customer Base

 
Large corporations enjoy a luxury that most start-ups and new businesses do not: a larger pocketbook. Large corporations and established companies can allocate a lot more money into R&D and marketing strategies that are designed to create market share than an entrepreneur can. Because of this entrepreneurs must learn to do more with less in order to gain their market share. Entrepreneurs must win on a tactical level. The key to winning this battle is to be creative by making small innovations which create differentiators. These differentiators can be product features, services, prices, etc. Basically, you must create a unique selling point and exploit that to your target market. Today social media allows many more companies to do this successfully. Learn to use social media outlets, Youtube, and other internet tools that are significantly cheaper than mainstream advertising tools while still providing excellent exposure.
 

Retain Your Customer Base

 
Simply put, entrepreneurs must decide how they plan to keep customers coming back time after time. This also includes differentiators as mentioned above when talking about building your customer base. A popular retention differentiator is servitization. That is, offering a service component to products such as extended warranties and post-purchase tech support. By creating an enjoyable experience and excellent service more than a product is being bought. Instead of customers viewing their purchase as just another purchase they view it as an experience which invites them to return. Customer retention is increased by creating such an environment and experience for customers.
 

Your Marketing Plan

 
As you begin to market your product remember that understanding who you are selling to is just as important as what you are selling. Strategically plan with your target market in mind as you create differentiators in your product, as you decide outlets you will use to market, and as you create an experience that will keep customers coming back time and time again.

The Benefits of Using Business Plan Software


Get Started on the Right Foot with Business Plan Software

 
An essential step to starting your business on the right foot is to build a solid and comprehensive business plan. For many this can prove to be a difficult task. More and more people are beginning to use business plan creation software found online. Business plan software are worth using and can prove to be very helpful to getting your business up and running quicker by cutting down the time spent planning. Let’s take a look at a few benefits of utilizing business plan software.
 

Don’t Get Stuck in the Planning Phase

 
Sometimes the hardest part to starting a business is planning how to start a business. Many entrepreneurs do not know where to start or what even needs to be included in the business plan that banks, lenders, and equity providers want to see. Business plan creation software will walk you through this process step by step showing you the structure of a well-organized business plan. By following these steps the software actually helps you spend the necessary time doing market research, preparing data, and organizing your business structure. Simply, by using business plan software you can save yourself hours, days, or even weeks of frustration trying to figure out what to do next.
 

Take Advantage of Tools and Features

 
Creating a business plan requires data and analysis. This part of a business plan often proves to be the most complicated and time consuming. Business plan software provides many financial features that will help create complicated financial statements, forecast future sales and demand, and manage your costs. This process can be as easy as plugging your own raw data into a database and letting the software do all the calculations and financial ratios for you, saving you hours of calculations and formatting excel spreadsheets. Now you can spend more time deciding what to do with the numbers instead of calculating them.
 

Share and Collaborate with Others

 
Few entrepreneurs are creating a business plan all on their but instead this work is done with others in a team. This involves sending drafts back and forth to one another, looking revisions over and sending new ones back, and allocating lots of time to face to face meetings. Business plan software, especially web-based software, allows all of this to be done simultaneously through sharing and collaborative functions within the software. By utilizing the sharing features you will never have to worry about losing information or waiting for your partner to send data back to you. As well software provides an opportunity for instant, simultaneous feedback from several sources therefore enhancing the content of your business plan.
 
Utilizing business plan software will help you get your business up and running faster while maximizing the content of your business plan. A simple search online will lead you to business plan software tools such as eBusinessPlan that will walk you through the process of creating your own business plan.

Finding the Faster Horse: Strategies to Finding your New Business Idea

The Faster Horse

 

 
Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘Faster Horses.’” This provides valuable insight to the mindset and thinking involved with launching a successful business venture. Henry Ford was the first to mass-produce the automobile at a time filled with large changes in modes of transportation. For centuries Americans relied on the horse for their transportation. The idea here is that consumers always want something ‘better’ but do not necessarily know what ‘better’ actually is.
When searching for a business idea entrepreneurs should learn to be observant and focus on customer pain points. For example, in the early 20th century transportation was too slow. There are two main ways in which you can focus on customer pain paints: 1) In a broad sense across any industry or 2) narrowly examine a focused industry/product.
 

Broad Observation

 
Remember we are looking for problems and pain points in services and products that consumers see. One approach to finding these ideas is to sit back, observe, and reflect on products/services in any industry. This involves skimming across many different products to find pain points. In order to find a pain point in a broad sense like this begin asking people questions like,

• What recent purchase have you regretted the most?
• What is a great product that has some glitches or annoying features?
• Tell me about a recent bad experience you’ve had recently with a product or service?

Asking people questions like these will allow you to scan across a broad range of ideas then focus in on one specific pain point found in a product or service.
 

Examine a Specific Industry/Product

 
You may already have an expertise in a certain industry or field and would like to continue working in that field. A narrowly focused examination of customer pain points within that industry will lead you to entrepreneurial opportunities. Ask questions such as,

• If you could change anything about [the product], what would it be?
• Hypothetically if you could do anything different with [the product], what would do?
• What keeps you from buying or fully utilizing [the product]?

These type of questions will allow you to focus on one specific industry/products and come to some real conclusions about what could be done differently. These changes and variations will be your next entrepreneurial venture.
 

Think Small, Big Results

 
Often, the best entrepreneurial ideas are not brand new, cutting edge ideas but instead are simple improvements to a previous idea. When brainstorming, it is best to restrain or constrain your creative thinking, or in other words narrow the scope. These approaches allow you to be observant to current trends, markets, and ideas then constrain your thinking to find simple improvements or even a brand new, cutting edge idea. By thinking small you can find a magnificent idea that will lead to big results and your own entrepreneurial success. Like Henry Ford implied, we must not think like the consumer but instead understand the consumer’s problems and be thinking ahead of the consumer.

eBusinessPlan Partners with Lendio to Further Help Entrepreneurs

Thank You

 
First, we want to thank you for your interest in eBusinessPlan and thank you for the trust you have in us to help you build your business by utilizing our business plan editor. We take your business goals and dreams seriously. As a team of entrepreneurs we understand how much sacrifice and hard work goes into dreaming up and executing a new business. As such we have created a number of resources to help entrepreneurs plan and start their business.
 

Partnership with Lendio

 
Second, we want to let you know that we have a myriad of tools and resources which have helped thousands of entrepreneurs launch their company. Recently, we have partnered with a financial organization that has helped fund thousands of start-ups. To take advantage of this funding resource and the many other entrepreneurial tools we offer, please use the following link:
 
http://ebusinessplan.lendio.com
 
This tool can help you compare loans and institutions that want to fund your business. Our resources will also give you a view into the angel and venture capital investment world.
 

Follow eBusinessPlan to Learn More About How to Build Your Business

 
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An Answer to College Graduate Unemployment: Start Your Own Business

Options For Recent College Graduates

 
It is no secret that recent college graduates are struggling to find work. For the last couple years the topic of recent college graduate unemployment and underemployment has been common in journals, magazines, and newspapers. As recently as June 2013 statistics report that the unemployment rate for recent graduates is 4.8 percent to 14.7 percent depending on major and the underemployment rate is between 44 percent and 52 percent.
What can graduates do to counteract this trend? For recent graduates the norm following school has been one of two options; grad school or get a job. As we’ve talked about already, right now it is proving more difficult for graduates to find a job or enter a job in their ideal career field affecting the latter of the two options. Grad school isn’t for everyone and is expensive for kids who are already swimming in debt from their undergraduate studies. As well, while advanced degrees do increase the likelihood of finding employment they do not guarantee anything in today’s economy.

A third option we can add to the list above is start your own business. Actually this is already starting to become more common and will probably become more and more common as time goes on. Startups are responsible for creating roughly 3 million new jobs per year in the United States. This is a viable and great option for recent graduates.
 

How Can I Afford It?

 
A lot of recent graduates can feel overwhelmed financially when starting a business. I mean, where are you going to get all that money? Comparatively for grad school you could be looking at well over $50,000 in tuition and fees alone. Why not use that money to invest in your business and networking instead of going to grad school right away? This is not to say that your business replaces further education, it is simply proposing a change in timetable and allocation of resources.
 

Pursuing Your Career Path of Choice

 
A portion of underemployment statistics is college graduates who end up working in positions that are not what they intended. Many settle for part time positions in a field unrelated to their area of study. By starting your own business you are automatically working in an area that interests you personally and are potentially more experienced with. Ultimately, you get to decide what you work in, when, and how. That is a luxury many graduates do not have when first starting out.
 

Learning by Experience

 
One of the best ways to learn is trial by fire. Many times our learning is decelerated by being told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. It stifles our creativity and teaches us to not reach out and grab our potential. Starting your own business is a risk, one that you could be potentially taking all alone. By taking the risk you are blessing yourself with an opportunity to see just what you are made of and gaining a better understanding of your personal potential while developing as a person and professional.

Currently more young college graduates are deciding to start their own business and it is becoming an option among the norms of “getting a job” and “going to grad school.” Starting your own business after earning your bachelors is doable and provides an alternative in the current tough conditions for recent college graduations. By taking this risk you are allowing yourself to pursue your dreams while learning important lessons that will help towards future career success.

Lessons Learned from Elon Musk’s Hyperloop

Buzz Surrounding the Hyperloop

 
Earlier this month Elon Musk created buzz around the nation by releasing details to his newest idea: The Hyperloop, a new high-speed mode of transportation. This is his response to California’s $70 billion proposal to build a high-speed rail system, which Musk sees as expensive and inefficient.
 

Hyperloop Background

 
The Hyperloop, as proposed, will be about one-tenth the cost of the train proposal, travel at 760 MPH, and will produce its own energy to operate.

Musk has been looking into the idea of the Hyperloop since the announcement of the California Rail System. Recently, he came across a major “breakthrough” in the Hyperloop’s development but admitted that it needs to be tested and developed further.

Musk has only released what he calls a “sketch of an idea” but that he has “no time to pursue it” and that “others are welcome to build on it.” He is opening the door for anyone from the public to build upon and run with the start he has presented for the Hyperloop.
 

Musk’s Goal

 
Musk has made career of revolutionizing the transportation industry as the founder and CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX. He goes after ideas he deems inefficient with his goal being to begin making changes to the world as we know it. Bruce Leak, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, said of Musk, “The companies he’s started are executing against a vision measured not in years but in decades.” Musk isn’t looking to make a quick buck, although he may be doing that, he is looking to affect the future.
 

What Could Happen with the Hyperloop

 
There have not been such viable options for breaking away from the four main modes of transportation of the automobile, train, plane, and boat since the inception of these modes of transportation. While some scrutinize the idea of the Hyperloop and deem it not viable, Musk has opened eyes of many to other options outside the status quo.

For the entrepreneur that chases down and runs with the Hyperloop idea there is great potential for high returns and monetary gains. But the benefit to the entrepreneur will not only be measured monetarily. It will be measured by the change generated and the many ideas that will spring from it. This is an opportunity to be seen as a modern Rockefeller or Carnegie; to be a part of a clean, different kind of industrial revolution.

The Hyperloop idea may take off or it may not. If it does, it could be a dramatic change in how we travel. If it doesn’t, at least it has caused excitement to look towards newer, better modes of transportation. This is what Musk is trying to accomplish. He may not want to do the Hyperloop himself but he does want to expand the thinking of those around him. Running with and succeeding with the Hyperloop will open the doors, that remain closed for the time being, to a new way of viewing how we operate and think in our current world.

What can we learn from the Hyperloop? It is still okay to have an imagination and chase down what may seem to be impossible. And who is better to break these barriers than the world’s rising entrepreneurs?