Building a Lean, Efficient Business Plan By Ozioma Ubabukoh

The concept of the lean start-up, developed by entrepreneur Eric Ries, looks at how product development cycles can be shortened and businesses can run more efficiently by continuously measuring progress and feedback. This philosophy is particularly relevant when it comes to thinking about your business plan.

In business, it is the continuous planning process that matters. Your business plan, like your business, is a living, evolving, flexible thing. It requires rapid changes and fact-based decision making. I like the body metaphor implied by the term. Lean doesn’t just mean thin; it also means healthy, muscular and efficient. Here five ways to help make your business plan leaner:

1. Make strategy the heart of your plan

Strategy is focus – focus on specific target markets using specific products or services. Your strategy is based on some strength or characteristic that links you to your preferred buyers and the solutions you offer them. It defines how you want to set your business apart from the crowd. Strategy isn’t text – it’s concepts. You can summarise strategy in bullet points, using charts or even with a series of images.

To test your strategy statement, read it and ask yourself whether it describes your unique business or could be applied to many others. Is it specific enough to be implemented? Does it define a market, product and branding focus? While everything in a business plan is subject to change, the strategy changes more slowly than the rest of the plan in response to changing conditions.

2. Summarise more, elaborate less

Your business plan is held up by eight key core concepts: market, product or services, production, marketing, sales, distribution, management and finance. A fat business plan describes each of these key areas in elaborate detail. Lean business planning means using more bullets and less text. It refers to trends and ongoing assumptions as economically as possible, explaining them in detail only where the detail isn’t already understood.

3. Track progress and manage course corrections constantly

Track your progress with lists and tables full of numbers that you can use to course correct. This is lean to the extent that it’s specific, concrete and measurable. The most important part of this is a list of milestones. These are scheduled achievements and activities, each of which ought to have dates, budgets, performance measurements, expectations for spending and sales and specific assignments for task responsibilities.

Aside from these milestones, good planning also needs regularly updated projections of sales, costs, expenses and cash. The projections should be just detailed enough to offer good plan-verses-actual analysis for better management. For example, monthly projections are probably essential for at least the next six months, and usually 12 months is better; but monthly projections beyond a year are most often a waste of time. The goal isn’t guessing right (which never happens) but rather laying out the probable results and connecting the dots (like expenses to sales) so you can track progress and make useful changes.

4. Dress up your plan with descriptions

Descriptions you use to dress up your plan depending on the audience might include market details, technical or scientific background, company history, bios of the management team, generic market research, proof of concept and competitive analysis. Like clothes, you make these descriptions appropriate to the occasion. For example, you might need to prove a market to assure investor or to prove financial stability to assure bankers.

5. Be consistent about updates

Planning for a startup is a lot like diet and exercise. Business planning is a process, not an event. Like diet and exercise, the key to staying lean is regular repetition over a long time to generate real positive benefits. You don’t do it once, or even once in a while. You review and revise your plan regularly.

How Entrepreneurs Can Make Money Fast By Ozioma Ubabukoh

The digital nomad revolution is among us and the combination of this remote work trend coupled with the proliferation of technology and the Internet means that new ways of making money have arisen. Worldwide, intelligent people are finding new ways to earn an income alongside their day jobs, some of which now do so in their sleep…literally.

If you’re sick of keeping up with the 9-to-5 rat race and want to find new ways to earn a living, be it full-time or alongside your current job, you’ll be happy to hear that the opportunities are now endless. To help you get started, here are 10 ways inspiring ways people make money.

1.Arbitrage
Arbitrage is when you hire a middleman to do your job for you. In other words, you work as an agency. For example, if you are a content writer who has been hired by a company, you would accept the work and then pay someone else to do it for you.

Although you would not generate as much money as if you were to do the work yourself, you can take on more projects, hiring freelancers to do the work while you market the services in question.

2. Writing a book
If you have a specific area of expertise that you feel would be valuable to people, why not tell them through a book? Although you would have to invest a lot of time writing it, publicising it to the world has been made increasingly easy, thanks to the Internet and digital marketing.

Now, instead of spending money getting it printed, you can simply sell it in a digital format on websites, such as Amazon. You could also create your own website, with an optimised landing page that would organically attract potential readers.

3. Drawing and designing logos and graphics.
No matter how many design and logo-building tools appear on the market, the results are not comparable to those seen from professional designers. If you know how to use applications such as Photoshop and have a knack for all things design, then why not start offering your services from home in your spare time?

You could start doing this as a form of side income and slowly evolve by growing your customer base through websites such as Upwork, People Per Hour and Freelancer. You could also create your own business website.

4. Investing in stocks
Investing in stocks has been a common way for smart people to earn money on the side for years. Luckily, nowadays, you don’t have to figure out the stock market on your own because the internet provides you with all the information you need to know.

Aside from the fact that information is readily available at the click of just a few buttons, various educational platforms now offer trading courses whereby you can learn the basics for understanding the stock market and where to get started.

5. Blogging
Similarly to a book or ebook, a blog is a great way to share your expertise on a specific subject or industry. All you need to do is a use a blog-creating platform to get your page up and running then create awesome content. To make your blog successful, you must:

• Optimise it to generate more traffic
Update content regularly
Couple your content writing efforts with well-structured social media marketing
Once you have all the above put in place, there are numerous ways you can start generating an income from your blog. You could:

• Become an affiliate
• Sell advertising space
• Create a course or webinar that people can sign up to
• Start a subscription business once you have grown a significant following

6. Offering content writing services.
If you have a way with words, you can use that skill to write for businesses who need web content, articles, blog posts, and press releases. By creating a freelancer profile on some of today’s online platforms, you could generate some good money in an hour with the right clients.

In addition, you don’t have to stop at just writing. Content creation comes in all shapes and sizes, and businesses worldwide are looking for various videos, infographics, and images for their websites, blogs, and social media channels.

• Utilising previous assets
If you have been working on specific types of projects and have created a valuable template that has proven to be consistently bulletproof, then you can sell this. Templates go much further than simply web design, others include, but are not limited to:

• Presentation templates
• Proposal templates
• Sales and demo templates
• Infographic templates
• Resume templates
• Email templates
• Marketing templates
You can also make more money by offering people packages whereby your template comes with content specific to your clients’ project. This could be anything from a marketing bundle to photography bundles and more.

7. Utilising previous assets could also involve you:

• Selling your photography
• Selling notes you’ve taken from a book, video, film or conference
• Buying and selling websites domain names
8. Offering personal loans
Investing in the right people can have its benefits, which is why smart people tend to make calculated decisions with their money, one of these being peer-to-peer lending. It may seem like a risky game to start playing, but lending companies have created new ways for anyone with money to become lenders, safely. Simply put, you sign up on the website, they find a borrower that matches your lending criteria, and you lend that person money (with interest).

9. Property rentals
Smart people use all the resources they have to make a spare buck and this includes their home. If you have a spare room that is more often that not empty, spruce it up, and put it on AirBnB. You could generate enough money to pay your mortgage and even some spare cash, depending on where you live.

If you have a second home that you only visit during the holidays, rent it during the time you are not using it. By treating it like a business, you could turn this into your primary form of income.

Finally …

The key to making extra money is not being smart, but finding smart ways to generate new forms of revenue. The creative ways outlined above may require a small initial time or monetary investment, but these can eventually be automated in most cases, creating a diversified money making machine that will ensure you don’t have all your eggs in one financial basket.

Cutting Operating Costs for Start-ups By Ozioma Ubabukoh

Start-up businesses should be making use of value added services to decrease the cost of running their enterprises.

That is according to Mags Ponnan, Head of the FNB Business Incubator, who adds that entrepreneurs need to learn that running a cost heavy business only make it harder for a new business to make a profit.

Going through an exercise to lean down the business model will create a far more sustainable way for the business to operate effectively with a focus on its core offering.

“We encourage entrepreneurs to start their business at the lowest cost and save wherever possible to give themselves freedom to invest the funds in areas of the business that are key to its success,” Ponnan said

“The key takeout for entrepreneurs here should be to make use of the many value-added services that usually accompany a business bank account. These are tools and platforms that we offer FNB Business accountholders to decrease their monthly operating costs to a bare minimum, enabling them to invest money where it is most beneficial to the business bottom line,” Ponnan said.

Effective ideas for start-ups to save business costs ideas

Starting and running a business on your own is a risky affair. It requires a lot of hard work, dedication, creativity and sound planning. Also, one needs is a decent amount of cash flow to run the company. The more cash you will save, the easier will be your initial entrepreneurial journey. If you have a tight budget, always know the difference between necessary and pointless spends. Also, keep a track of all expenses and cut down wherever and whenever required.

Entrepreneur India lists down a few lucrative ways for start-ups to cut costs in the beginning.

Hiring done right

Nalini Jindal, Chief Investment Advisor, Intellistocks, feels there are no simple ways to cut costs. A start-up requires employees with a specific skill set and a lot depends on each and everyone’s performance. A bad hire costs a company approximately six months of time, recruitment cost, payouts etc.

 

Jindal emphasised that hiring and assigning responsibilities with the right skill set helps achieve efficiency in work, keeps the employee happy and keeps attrition rate to the minimum which is very important for a startup.

She further added that as a startup, narrowing the business focus to the more revenue generating and efficient projects rather than taking up too many projects/customers at once is a good idea. So, one must do a cost-benefit analysis and reduce the opportunity costs.

“This way one can be more productive and produce high-quality work thus generating more revenue,” added Jindal.

Pay your employees more

Gagan Kapur, Co-Founder & CEO, EasyBuyHealth, recommends to save cost, startups must pay people better and hire experienced professionals.

“It will help you reduce the learning curve and avoid costly mistakes. Pay them more, and expect more from them, which means no need to hire unnecessary junior resources. Secondly, follow the principle of hire fast, fire fast, which means reward the good people, remove the bad people,” shared Kapur.

Make most out of networking events

Bhavik Mehta, Director, FinREQ, believes cost or expense is a key issue for any startup that can determine whether it will be able to survive a market or not.

“The good news is, if you master the art of trimming expenses early in the game, you’ll develop good habits that’ll serve you well as your company grows. Word-of-mouth is the best and cheapest form of advertising, but that means a lot of networking. Attend business and community events to talk about your company, and don’t forget to focus on your most desirable customers. You can develop the art of becoming a good speaker,” said Mehta.

Note

A snazzy office, the latest equipment, smart employees and the option to complete a project on your time, and perhaps at the beach – many new entrepreneurs dream big when they plan their first venture. The only problem is that a new business is much more about hard work, sincere efforts and reduction of costs than the way they picture it.

It is important that you pay attention to how much you spend when you begin a new business. Spend just a little above your means and your dreams could fizzle. You need to keep track of all expenses and cut down wherever and whenever possible.

You may not be able to cut down on certain expenses such as trade licenses, business permits or any other aspect that directly affects your business. But there are ways that you can reduce costs and still attain your dream.