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Rosalene Glickman
Optimal Thinking executive coach, corporate trainer
Optimal Thinking executive coach, corporate trainer


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Custom Business Plans for Startups and Small Businesses

Do you need a startup business plan or a business plan for your small business? Think of it this way. If you were building your dream home, you would invest in an experienced architect to create a comprehensive blueprint. You would not leave this important plan to someone who is still learning through trial and error. The plan would ensure that your home will be structurally sound, with floor plans and room features that accomplish your goals.

If you were taking the cross-country trip of your lifetime, you would take the time to invest in a comprehensive road map that contains the directions, points of interest, and your accommodations to ensure you have a fulfilling travel experience.

The same holds true for a successful business. Your best blueprint or road map is a custom business plan. This essential document will help you set realistic goals and make decisions to optimize the development and direction of your business. A custom business plan created by professional business plan writers will also help you allocate resources and measure the results of your decisions and actions. Every entrepreneur needs such a plan no matter how large or small their business objectives. Business success is achieved as a result of thorough, consistent and comprehensive planning.

Collaborating with a team of business plan writing specialists will help you focus on all the details of your business. You will gain a clear understanding of the market opportunities and risks. This can be exciting when you, as an entrepreneur or small business owner, want to jump in and run your business. A comprehensive professional business plan will pay off multi-fold in dividends and success.

So, what exactly is a custom startup business plan or small business plan? It is a set of documents to summarize your company’s operational and financial objectives with projections for 3 to 5 years in the future. It will disclose your business’s direction and how you will achieve your goals.

The Main Elements of A Professional Business Plan

Business plans vary according to the stage of development of your business, your objectives, the industry, and many other factors. The general elements in your business plan will include:

Executive Summary: This section includes a two to three page summary highlighting the major points from each section of your plan. This summary is a compelling overview of your business plan and describes your business, why it is relevant, and the direction of the business.

Market Analysis: This section describes your industry, the state of your target market and your competitors, and how you will differentiate yourself from them. This analysis demonstrates how much you know about your market.

Company Description: This section explains your business and the details of your competitive advantage. The description provides details on how you plan to be successful.

Organization and Management: This section explains your legal structure, management team, and advisors or board of directors. You will want to share the talents and strengths of your team, advisors, and directors.

Marketing and Sales Strategies: This section explains the methods you will employ to reach your customers and encourage them to buy your product or service. You will want to disclose the various selling strategies and techniques you are using or plan to use to drive revenue.

Product Line or Service Line: This section includes a description of your product or service, and specifically, what makes it unique. You will need to be clear on why your customers will buy this product or service.

Funding: This section includes your current funding sources and describes your funding needs and requests. You will reveal your financial needs and how you will use the dollars requested.

Financials: This section includes the prior years of financial statements as well as your projected financial statements. You will want to include your assumptions, a balance sheet, profit and loss statement and cash flow statement, at a minimum, for your projected periods within your business plan.

It is important, throughout the business plan to be realistic and consistent with both your qualitative and quantitative information; the information in each element of the plan must align with your objectives and goals.

Three Themes in A Professional Business Plan

The following three themes are incorporated throughout the elements of a professional business plan:

Clarify Your Offering: You will need to clarify what makes your business unique as well as the need fulfilled by your product(s) or service(s).

Be Strategic: You will need to focus your business opportunity; don’t try to be ‘a jack of all trades and a master of none’. This can have a negative impact on long-term business growth.

Identify Your Niche: You will need to fully understand the areas that are well established by the competition and the areas that are potential opportunities for your business.

Two Types of Business Plans

Custom business plans are written for internal purposes or for external funding requests.

Internal Purposes: An internal business plan helps you lead your business better and to stay focused on the long-range direction. Entrepreneurs and CEOs of small businesses can get lost in the day-to-day operations of their business and lose sight of the future. The business plan provides the strategic tool for you and your management team to lead your business to best grow and succeed. It will allow you to assign priorities, focus on results and milestones, and track your progress.

External Funding: This business plan will help you convey your vision to potential investors, who can range from family and friends to banks, angel investors and venture capitalists. All of these investors need to see a comprehensive business plan that provides them with a clear understanding of your business, financial confidence in you and your business, and a decent return on their investment.

And finally, you want to know that your startup business plan or small business plan is a living, working document. As you secure funding, your business develops, or your market conditions change, your plan will be revisited and rewritten. Updating your business plan will become a critical activity throughout your company’s lifespan.

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A distinguished member of the business plan writing team at , Rosemary McGreevy, CPA, MBA is an accomplished financial leader in small to mid-sized privately held companies, a Fortune 500 public company and big 4. She is an expert in best practices for process improvement, internal controls, and cost improvement.

Ms. McGreevy has created numerous business plans ( see ) to drive optimum business performance, simplicity, transparency and accountability. She holds an MBA and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting (magna cum laude) from Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ. She is a licensed Certified Public Accountant in two states and a Chartered Global Management Accountant.
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Be Your Own Hero

Throughout the ages, remarkable people have sacrificed their lives for others, asking nothing in return. You have what it takes to be the hero of your life...
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Business Plan Services: The Top 3 Red Flags

If you need a business plan service for a business plan to raise funds or sell internally, here are the top three red flags you need to be aware of.

Red Flag #1: Sample Business Plans Online

Many business plan services display sample business plans on their websites to demonstrate their end product. In reality, they are demonstrating a fundamental lack of business acumen and disrespect for their clientele.

By publishing samples, they are enabling low end competitors to flood the market with business plans copied from originals. When strategies, market research, and format are readily available, the competitive advantage for the original client and prospective clients is squandered.

Instead, a premier business plan writing service safeguards their clientele and never releases business plans to acquire new business. As durable competitive advantages are critical to business success, confidentiality extends beyond obtaining funding and the life of the initial project. The most successful business plans are based on proprietary methodologies that ensure a durable competitive advantage. These methodologies are trade secrets and only deployed for actual clients.

Red Flag #2: Bargain Basement MBA's

Many writing services advertise MBA-educated business writers at unrealistically low prices. In order for this to be true, one or more of the following also has to be true.

1. The MBA's are recent graduates from third tier schools with little or no business experience
2. The MBA's are located in a third world country and lack first world insights
3. Inexperienced MBA's are copying and pasting your information into cookie cutter software which you could do better yourself
4. The company is practicing “bait and switch” and admin staff are actually operating the software

Logically, top flight senior executives with MBA's are expensive and well worth it. Their deep, relevant experience enables you to avoid costly trial and error and gives you the best chance for success.

Red Flag #3: Single Point of Failure

Many business plan services assign just one person to create a plan. The weaknesses of this approach should be obvious. Insights, strategies, industry experience, and accuracy are compromised because the plan is limited to a single individual’s mental bandwidth.

A premier business plan service deploys three senior executives with relevant industry experience to create each and every business plan. The resulting cross pollination of their interaction has been proven to address unforeseen obstacles and produce the most successful plans.

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To avoid these red flags and ensure that you receive the best possible custom business plan, visit

Since 1989, our company has averaged a 90% success rate on investment plans for our clients in almost every industry. Our senior executive team only write business plans when we believe that there is an excellent probability for success. Because of this level of scrutiny, we are able to help clients to best launch new businesses, expand existing businesses, and raise hundreds of millions of dollars to support business ventures.
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Why Mergers and Acquisitions Need a Premier Business Plan Service

“Mergers and acquisitions have failed throughout history!” This phrase is often uttered at business schools, usually in courses devoted to teaching students about the mergers and acquisitions process. Despite this fact, companies have an increasing appetite for acquisitions. As a result, these students have a reason to attend these courses.

Adopting an M&A program can be advantageous to a company’s growth, expanding into new markets, buying a new product line, or reducing competition to the extent allowed by regulators. But such a program, be it a series of acquisitions, or just one large one, should be undertaken with a business plan that is well defined and agreed upon before any targets are identified or conversations begin.

If a custom business plan does not exist, the ability for the acquiring company to stay focused on the reasons for spending capital on the acquisition, avoid the selling pressure of investment bankers, or manage execution risk around post-deal integration is negatively impacted. This can lead to the ultimate failure of the acquisition.

Focus On the Intended Objective

The availability of capital is essential to the M&A process. It is the incentive for sellers, and is therefore a requirement for buyers to sit at the M&A table. Capital comes with an inherent cost that is measured in different ways for different entities. Ultimately it requires a return to the provider that is typically governed by market forces.

Capital is not cheap and is usually coveted by any business, with careful analysis of how it is spent. All of this seems obvious, but it is amazing how quickly it is forgotten during the M&A process. A particular deal can take on a life of its own, and getting it done can become an end in itself, regardless of whether or not it meets the originally intended objective.

Similarly, the M&A process can be an exciting one, feeding the egos of those involved. Being critical of a deal can often be perceived as contrarian, and is therefore inherently less likely among business people.

A premier business plan service ( ) deploying senior executive business plan specialists who have been through the process and have witnessed the distractions that create this loss of focus helps a company establish mileposts to ensure their eyes remain on the prize. Establishing expected metrics that can be tested along the way is a disciplined way to maintain this focus. An acquisition usually represents the largest one-time corporate expenditure of capital. Scrutiny is deserved so that the expenditure does not result in failure.

What to Expect From Advisors

An undesirable distraction can come from the very professionals a company engages to help it navigate the M&A process. Although unintended, these acquisition advisors can force a deal through even if it becomes evident that it is not what it first seemed. While advisors can work for either party in an acquisition, the majority of their compensation is usually contingent upon the deal closing. Often, they become the biggest and loudest proponents of a deal, and provide a constant pressure to continue moving it toward closure.

Acquisition advisors are indeed consummate professionals and deserve no disparagement for what they do, but their efforts and incentives need to be kept in mind and their involvement with any devil’s advocacy should be limited as their perspective can be biased.

Deploying a premier business plan service with seasoned independent business plan consultants can help maintain this separation of duties. The advisors can do what they do best, while the company can ensure that the acquisition meets its needs and will likely result in what was expected. If a particular acquisition does not create value, but rather destroys it, few companies would likely undertake efforts to execute such a deal.

Acquisition advisors want to get deals done, period. Granted, if they have a history of doing bad deals, they are unlikely to be in business for long, but when there is a deal on the table, it is typically their job to get it done. An M&A plan with strict criteria for its acquisitions can help balance this bias.

Professional Business Plans Reduce Disruption

The post-merger integration stage is where most acquisitions fail. Many large consulting firms have separate practices devoted to these efforts, indicating the importance of this stage in the process. Based on the nature of the acquisition, all aspects of the business can be affected, and on both sides of the deal.

The complexities can be overwhelming. This is why a professional business plan created by an MBA-educated senior executive team ( ) that has been involved in mergers and acquisitions can help a company tremendously during this process. Before a deal is even entered into, knowing the game plan of how it will be integrated allows a company to identify which resources are necessary and allocate them accordingly.

A top-notch custom business plan can also help minimize the disruption to the buyer’s existing business by communicating expectations to departments as deals move forward. A reduction in the amount of uncertainty that is typically felt by the rank-and-file will be valuable. The absence of such a business integration plan can lead to chaos after a deal closes, with departments jockeying for position, employees jumping ship and the culture of acquired operations clashing with existing ones. All of this can lead to a loss in value when the original intention was to create new value.

A Premier Business Plan is Critical

A premier business plan can only be written by people who have tremendous experience dealing with these issues. Putting such experience to use in a very complex process can prevent mergers and acquisitions from failing.

During 2015, businesses spent a total of $3.8 trillion on acquisitions, and 60% of executives are expecting to execute some type of deal in 2016.1 With this amount of capital being put to use, businesses are surely interested in preventing these deals from failure. The adoption of a premier business plan service is clearly a means by which companies can reduce the risk of mergers and acquisitions failing and their significant investment not returning what was expected for their investors. The adoption of this plan early, as an M&A program is contemplated, is the most effective way to secure success.

1. Baigorri, Manuel. "2015 Was Best-Ever Year for M&A; This Year Looks Good Too." Bloomberg. Baigorri, 5 Jan. 2016. Web. 15 July 2016.

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A distinguished member of the business plan writing team ( ), Michael J. Golde, CPA, MBA is an entrepreneur, C-Suite executive, and independent board member with a background in finance and operations. He has practiced public accounting, written numerous business plans, ( ) and served as Controller, CFO, COO, Managing Director and President for over 25 years.

Mr. Golde has accumulated strengths in Strategic Planning, Mergers & Acquisitions, Debt & Equity Financing, and Finance & Operations and has led rapidly-growing companies in both domestic and global markets.

Mr. Golde earned a BBA and an MBA from Pace University, is a CPA and is the coveted winner of the "CFO of the Year" award from the Long Island Business News.

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Business Plan for A Turnaround
(You Do It or Someone Else Will)

Business plans that look pretty are sometimes lies. Faux business plans resulted in 15 straight years of decline in same store sales and mass management resignations, including the CFO. You are the newly hired CEO. The previous CEO filed for bankruptcy and sold the company in a court ordered auction. The new private equity owner has given you 90 days to turn around the company after a 10 percent reduction in salaries for management, and three years of postponed maintenance capital expenditures.

Preparing the Business Plan

The new owners provide minimal working capital. You must improve cash flow by $1,000,000 in 90 days or they will find someone else. What do you do first? You prepare your business plan by gathering facts and enlisting the right people as follows:

1. Find a CFO who can partner with you to build a culture of performance, properly evaluate staff, and help allocate capital. This is the most important to step for future success.

2. Evaluate the old business plan and the strategies that did not work. Then trash it and start over.

3. Find all existing marketing research relating to your brand and your customer base.

4. Independently evaluate the key players in Operations, Purchasing, Human Resources, Information Services, Accounting and Marketing, as well as staffing levels. Your byline should be “Quamplurimi et Quam Aptissimi” or “As Many as Possible of the Very Best” in each area.

5. Visit retail locations to determine the state of operational management, condition of the stores, breadth and quality of the merchandise in stock, state of the service, and the pulse of the culture. In other words, “Walk the Walk” and follow the lead of Sam Walton by visiting as many stores as possible.

6. Evaluate all compensation, training and benefit plans to determine if they are fair and competitive in the marketplace, or represent opportunities for efficiencies.

7. Review the product and sales mix for opportunities to increase sales and improve margins.

8. Evaluate technology for cost savings opportunities and capital requirements.

9. Evaluate the state of the retail outlets for remodeling opportunities to build sales and optimize efficiency.

10. Develop the leadership team that will carry the company into a successful future.

Business Plan for A Turnaround

Simplicity and brevity are friends of a business plan in a turnaround situation. Below is the format of a successful business plan to turn around a company.

1. Define the vision, corporate values and mission statement that every member of the company can believe in and live by. Below is an example of a vision statement:

We are a company that shapes its own destiny, that what we believe in is what we become and whatever we believe we can do, we do.

We are a company where we:

a. Embrace the difficult.
b. Have a clear plan for the future.
c. Take personal responsibility for our actions.
d. Create leaders throughout the organization.

Values are those innate beliefs from which you operate the business. Some examples of business values include:

a. Growth.
b. Safety.
c. Service.
d. Responsibility.
e. Fun.

A mission statement in its simplest form is a statement defining: “Why do we exist?” Below is an example of a mission statement (McDonald’s Corporation):

“McDonald’s brand mission is to be our customer’s favorite place and way to eat.”

2. Objective Setting

Objective setting is a team sport and consists of quantifying expectations. You will be unable to execute a business plan until you understand what is expected from your owners and whether it is achievable by your management team. I suggest two phases with owners and management: first an informal and then formal discussion of quantifiable objectives with your owners after doing your preliminary plan. Finally, a commitment phase by your management team is critical to achieve these results.

If you are in a turnaround situation with a 90 day perspective, a three or five year business plan is a waste of time so you should first quantify your objectives including operating statistics such as sales growth, margins, profitability and cash flow with your owners for the next twelve months.

3. Formal Business Plan Process

Next is the formal business planning process which should result in a team commitment to achieve certain quantifiable results.

Specific steps follow:

a. Industry and Segment Review.
b. Competitor Analysis.
c. SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
d. Marketing and Sales Action Plan.
e. Margin and Cost Savings Action Plans.
f. Human Resources Plan.
i. Training.
ii. Benefits.
iii. Staffing.
iv. Compensation Planning
g. Risk Management (types and limits of insurance to protect the new business).
h. Financial Exhibits.
i. Income Statement with key operating statistics.
ii. Balance Sheet with key balance sheet ratios (inventory turns, days billing outstanding, days in payables, debt equity ratio, current ratio, quick ratio etc.).
iii. Cash Flow.
iv. Capital Plan separated into cost savings, maintenance and growth capital components.
i. Management Bios. Include why management will be able to accomplish the plan.
j. Tax Planning depending on structure (Sub-chapter S corporation, LLC, C Corporation, or Partnership).
k. Risk Factors: Define factors that could negatively impact future results.
l. Contingency Plan: Action plans to achieve results should risk factors occur.

4. Finalize the Numbers

Next, meet with your owners or Board of Directors to finalize the numbers and ensure their buy in. When agreed, finalize the action plans with dates for accomplishment and adjust the numbers.

Obtain final commitment from your leadership team and prepare your presentation. While the quality of your presentation and the write-up is important, the real test is obtaining or exceeding the quantifiable results that you have committed to your owners. This 12 month plan should form the basis for your first three year business plan which should begin within six months.

5. Follow-up and Review

One of the final steps in business planning that is often overlooked is defining the process for follow-up and review. Ronald Reagan said it best, “Trust but verify.” I suggest weekly meetings on all action plans, daily and weekly reviews of all operating statistics, monthly financials and regular reporting to your owners or Board of Directors regarding progress. While the importance of your business plan will never reach the level of arms negotiations, as it did with Ronald Reagan, please remember, if you don’t plan your turnaround well and achieve the results promised, someone else will.

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An accomplished member of the business plan writing team ( ), Thomas (Tom) J. Sandeman, MBA is an experienced CEO, CFO who has been a guest lecturer at Louisiana State University, Tulane University and The Turnaround Management Association on the topic of turnarounds.

As a member and former Chairman of the CFO’s group of the National Restaurant Association, he has developed business plans ( ) for buying and selling companies including a 1600 location, international franchiser.

Tom has written over thirty annual business plans for start-ups, public and private equity owned companies and developed business plans ( ) to successfully raise over $450,000,000 of debt and equity capital in the food service, wholesale and healthcare industries including an Initial Public Offering (IPO).
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Executive Coaching For The Bad Boss

Are you embarrassed about the way you’ve treated your employees? Have you received complaints from your employees, peers or superiors? Unfortunately, many mediocre and downright lousy bosses do not seek the help they need. It’s hard to face shortcomings even for the best of us.

Optimal Thinking coaches do not define struggling leaders as bad bosses. We simply uncover damaging behaviors based on poor decisions, and follow the Optimal Thinking paradigm:

Accept, Understand, Optimize!

Optimal Thinking Executive Coaching helps you understand if and why you’re considered a bad boss, and provides you with best practices and best solutions to optimize your success. Over time and with commitment, we’ve helped transform thousands of under-performing bosses become superior leaders.

Are you ready to determine where you stand right now? Do you demonstrate any of the following behaviors?

Bad Boss Behaviors

• controlling
• intrusive
• picky
• unreliable
• bullying or harassing
• insecure or overwhelmed with job requirements
• discriminating
• dishonest
• unethical, immoral or unfair
• incompetent

Specifically, do you:

• take the credit for your employees’ work
• micromanage your employees
• belittle employees
• play favorites
• provide inadequate compensation
• fail to understand your employees’ needs
• dole out tasks with impossible deadlines
• change deadlines too often or at the last moment
• back stab or gossip
• disrespect your employees’ privacy or legal rights
• use sarcasm with your employees
• provide unclear direction for your team
• lack sufficient knowledge of your business
• withhold recognition for hard work and accomplishments
• fail to lead by example

Now that you’ve reviewed this list, think about who you most want to be.

Become a First-Class Boss

Many leaders believe that hiring the best talent is almost all that is required for success. However, 85 years of research by Frank Schmidt and John Hunter on employee selection methods revealed that the top 15 percent of professionals and managers produced almost 50 percent more output than their average peers.

Constructive connections among people are critical to achieve performance and humane behavior. The best bosses provide an environment of psychological safety where employees can perform at their highest levels without unnecessary fear of ridicule or punishment. When employees bring the best version of themselves to work each and every day, their bosses are rewarded with optimum productivity and recognized for their competence.

Executive Coaching with Optimal Thinking

During Optimal Thinking Executive Coaching ( ), we listen carefully to negative feedback, seek to understand where it is coming from, and employ the information as an optimization opportunity. Together, we determine the best options and work toward the best solutions.

Even the worst bosses stop destructive behaviors with consistent Optimal Thinking and place their best selves in charge. You learn to accept what is out of your control, maximize what is within your control, and bring out the best from others.

You discover what your people value most and the beliefs and causes they are most committed to. You seek to understand their needs and desires as well as their innate limitations. You support your people in taking the best actions to achieve their most important goals. You recognize and applaud achievements appropriately with letters of appreciation, weekend getaways, dinners, flowers, award ceremonies, plaques, gifts, cash awards, or simply a handshake and a smile.

Simply stated, Optimal Thinking leaders discover what “the best” means to their people, appeal to their best interests, stimulate in them the desire to be their best, and then acknowledge them for doing their best. It’s your turn now. Feel free to contact us at

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Rosalene Glickman, Ph.D. is the international best-selling author of Optimal Thinking (Wiley 7 printings, and in 17 languages).

Rosalene is President of The World Academy of Personal Development Inc., a Los Angeles training and optimization consulting firm. She is a distinguished expert witness in cognitive analysis, leadership development and optimization. She has served as the Director of Professional Development for The American Society for Training & Development in Los Angeles.

As the leading authority in personal and business optimization, Rosalene has delivered over 2500 presentations to corporations, associations, colleges, and business groups. On an individual basis, she has provided over 30,000 hours of of one-on-one coaching to numerous Fortune 500 leaders, senior executives, entrepreneurs, and rising stars. She has ranked within the top 20 global personal development experts for the past 13 years (

Rosalene provides coaching, training and consulting for individuals and organizations including Warner Bros., Johnson & Johnson, U.S. Army, Young Presidents’ Organization, BP, UCLA, California State University (School of Business Administration), National Australia Bank, Internal Revenue Service, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Century 21 Real Estate, Delta Airlines, Australian Institute of Management, Mensa, and Air New Zealand.
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Custom Technology Startup Business Plans

Only about one or two out of 10 technology start-ups become stars. They are not necessarily the best or have the coolest products, the most substantial funding, or the first to market. However, a custom business plan ( see ) written by seasoned technology executives can greatly improve the odds of success. Startup business plans clearly express the company’s vision, anticipate challenges, clearly define the value proposition, and lay out clear and actionable goals and milestones. They also help determine the amount, timing, valuation, and return of funding.

Some of the key challenges for technology start-ups that a professional business plan will address include:

• Going beyond technology and features to identify what customer need or problem the product addresses. Specifically, what is the value proposition?
• How is the market defined, and what is the revenue potential?
• How much funding is needed and when?
• What is the competition (and even unique products have competition)?
• What is the exit strategy?

Technology and Features vs. the Value Proposition

A critical trap for technology companies to avoid is dwelling on a product’s features and underlying technology. It is certainly important to describe what the product does, how it was built, whether it is protected by trade secrets or patents, and whether the platform is proprietary, open, or industry standard. However, what is most critical is the value proposition for customers. Success is not going to be determined by how sexy or advanced the technology is, but whether anyone will buy it. Every startup business plan needs to consider questions such as:

• What problem does the product solve?
• Can it be easily communicated and demonstrated to potential customers?
• What is that worth to customers and are they willing to pay for that?
• What other upfront costs are there for customers in both time and money to learn and start using the product?
• Are sales repeatable and sustainable? Can new features or complementary products be developed to expand revenue potential?

The answers to these questions can also help determine how to price the products. This includes not only the price point but whether it should be a one-time purchase, lease/subscription, or charge per transaction? Do you charge for implementation or support? For apps or website services, does a freemium model make sense?

Defining the Market

A common mistake is for companies to define their markets as “all iPhone” users or “all car owners” and then compound that by projecting revenue as a percentage of that market. For example, “If just 1% of all iPhone users (that’s 1% of over 500 million) buy our product at $10 each, we’ll have revenue of $50 million”. Few products will be applicable to all people or businesses in a market so broadly defined. Also, a target audience this vague is almost impossible to address.

A top-tier business plan writing company will drill into what market segment(s) your product fills a need for. Further, if there are multiple segments, the plan helps identify which to target first – for example, where is the most value-add, who are the most likely to adopt first, and which customers can be reached easily.

The revenue plan should then be built from the bottom up. For example:

• What sales channels to use? For example, direct salespeople, distributors, online retailers, and your own website.
• What is the geographic distribution? Local, regional, nationwide, global?
• How quickly can it ramp?
• What is the sales potential of each channel?

This will help establish clear metrics for each sales driver and build more reliable projections.


No matter how differentiated or technologically advanced a product is, there is always competition even if it is a potential competitor or doing nothing. As with defining the market, business plan writing specialists are specific about the problem that is being solved and the ways customers are, or can be, addressing them.

If there are direct customers, identify how you are different in features, service, and pricing and how you can win head-to-head. But even if you see few or no direct competitors, ask:

• Do customers use home-grown solutions?
• Do customers use one product to address part of the problem and another to address the rest?
• Conversely, do they use a product that has very broad functionality and the specific issue you address is just a part of what they do? Further, is that an opportunity to be more targeted and less expensive or perhaps signal you need to build out more functionality?
• How easy would it be for a new competitor to jump in, especially companies already selling other products to your target market?
• What is the cost to a potential customer of doing nothing?


Top-notch business plans include quality financial projections that have the following characteristics:

a. Assumption Driven

All key assumptions should be clearly laid out and used to drive the financial projections. This makes it easy for a reader to see the assumptions made and do “what if” analysis by modifying them. In contrast, poorly designed models often hard code numbers or embed key assumptions within formulas. For example, if you plan to raise $5 million in September, business plan writing specialists create an assumption where the amount and date can be changed and automatically update the model rather than manually entering $5M into September’s balance sheet. Or, rather than writing a formula for fringe benefit costs of 10% X wages, they create an assumption for the fringe rate and reference that. Now the assumption is both spelled out and easily changed.

Many of the things discussed above such as the distribution model, ramp, and pricing are key assumptions themselves and should be spelled out in the model. This is also how the projections stay consistent with, and help tell, the story of the business. They also spell out objective metrics and milestones to be reached in more detail than simply showing total revenue.

b. Three Statement Model

Include an Income Statement, Balance Sheet, and Statement of Cash Flows. The latter two are critical for calculating cash requirements, discussed more below.

c. Project out 3-5 Years

The projections should be monthly for at least the first year. After that, quarterly or annual numbers are sufficient. Clearly, the visibility on future years diminishes the further out in the future you project. However, the exercise is still important. It shows long-term expectations including how high sales and valuation can reach.

Those future years also need to be realistic. Poorly written business plans often have unrealistic revenue ramp-ups, sometimes because businesses think they have to reach a certain arbitrary target or valuation. Also, businesses often underestimate how much expenses will increase. For example, software companies may be tempted to treat many costs as fixed or nearly fixed so as sales ramp, income spikes unrealistically. Experienced business planners know that many of those so-called fixed costs will increase as the size of the company and customer base grows.

How Much Money Do You Need to Raise?

Some of the hardest and critical questions a top-notch business plan writing service will help answer are how much funding is needed, when, and in what form. If projections are built properly with a balance sheet and cash flow, you’ll be able to see when the business turns cash flow positive and how much money is needed to get there. However, there are more questions to answer:

• Technology companies have risk in most new product development including delays and cost overruns. The model needs to be able to assess the impact these might have and test different scenarios.
• Market acceptance of new products is highly uncertain.
• For start-ups, founders and early investors generally have significant equity stakes. Raising additional money dilutes them so there can be rewards for taking as little as possible or at least waiting until a higher valuation can be achieved.
• The flip side is that there are no assurances follow on money can be raised and, even if it can be, the valuation may be lower, or the time required may become a major distraction. Taking more funding helps offset those risks.

Premier business plan writers (see ) guide businesses on the trade-offs involved. High quality projections can test different scenarios; for example, can funding be stretched by reducing or slowing spend even if some sales growth is sacrificed? Alternatively, can growth be accelerated by investing more upfront? The projections can also help answer whether the business can support debt, which is less dilutive than equity. The projections can show the business’ ability to cover interest and principal payments, repay term debt, or, for credit lines, the amount of collateral available under borrowing formulas.

Exit Strategy

A startup business plan can help identify exit strategies. Is the goal to go public, be acquired by a strategic investor, sell to private equity, or perhaps continue to reinvest and grow the company indefinitely? A quality business plan writing service will enable you to spell out how to best position the company, maximize value, and hopefully become one of the small minority of technology businesses that achieve star status.

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A distinguished member of the Optimal Thinking business plan writing team ( ), Robert Low has extensive experience as the CFO of early stage companies. He worked as Controller of two venture capital funded start-ups, and has provided Controller and CFO services to emerging companies. He has created numerous business plans (see ) and helped more than 75 companies in a wide range of industries.

Mr. Low has authored two books covering the essentials of financial management for non-financial managers including Accounting and Finance for Small Business Made Easy (Entrepreneur Press). He was also co-inventor of Cashé, a software program for doing financial projections and valuation. He holds a BA from Rice University and a Master’s from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

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Bridging a Business Plan to Reality
Key Elements of an Effective Financial Planning Model

The purpose of a business plan writing service is to assist in evaluating the feasibility of a new or existing business in a critical, objective manner. A successfully written business plan ( see ) should unambiguously answer these basic questions:

1) What’s the product or service?

2) What problem do they solve for the customer?

3) How big is the market or opportunity?

4) How will the company deliver, price, and service the product or service?

5) Who is the management team tasked with executing the plan?

6) What are the major milestones for the successful execution of the business plan

7) What major risks could impede a successful execution of the plan? and, lastly

8) What are the anticipated financial results in terms of profitability, spend analytics, cash flow forecasting, customer or product profitability, overall return on investment, and required cash and investment?

In the end, business is a “game” of numbers and dollars and those that can achieve profitability before they exhaust their pool of invested cash will succeed. As such, the importance of an effective financial planning model that reflects every aspect of the underlying business plan cannot be overstated.

Equally important is that the financial planning model is designed as an “evergreen” model that can be continually updated to reflect actual operating results and changes in the market conditions and business. While most experienced business professionals would not disagree with the above, not everyone clearly understands what makes a truly effective financial planning model.

Effective Financial Plan Modeling

The following financial planning model elements should be designed into the planning process in order for the model to become a valuable decision support tool for the management team. These elements work particularly well in the business planning for a small to emerging growth company that has limited historical results or is facing an uncertain or new business environment.

Model Components

Because the financial models are usually company specific, the vast majority are compiled in spreadsheets. Depending on the nature and purpose of the business plan, the key components of a financial planning model may include the following:

• Income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement prepared on an accrual basis and in compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

• Detailed revenue and cost of goods sold forecasting

• Detailed personnel planning module

• Detailed General & Administrative expense forecasting

• Detailed capital expenditures (fixed asset) module with depreciation / amortization expense.

• Debt and/or equity capital raising initiative module reflecting the amount, timing, and key terms

• Enterprise Valuation module utilizing a market approach (i.e. applying market multiples to revenue, EBITDA and/or earnings) and an income approach (i.e. applying a discounted cash flow to the forecasted cash stream)

• Key performance metrics commonly used by the company

• Shareholder table reflecting current and future ownership percentages for the key shareholders

Level of Detail

Too often financial planning models are created in a manner that is inconsistent with how the company reports and manages the business on a day-to-day basis. For instance, the revenue and expense categories may be different from the actual chart-of-accounts used by the company in its financial reporting, or key drivers of the financial model are created at a level that are not easily measured in reality. This results in a plan that is difficult to reconcile and measure against actual results and significantly limits the value of the financial model as a decision support tool for management.

Compounding this problem is the data used by a company often comes from multiple sources and disparate non-interconnected systems, causing conflicting answers and further reconciliation issues. However, as the speed at which market and business conditions change increases, management response times need to decrease.

To improve this capability, the financial planning model should be created to the same level of detail as is normally reported to management at month end. This starts with utilizing the same chart-of-accounts in the financial planning model as is used in normal financial reporting. Additionally, the level of detail for non-financial values (units sold, employees, number of customers, number of clients, etc.) should also be consistent with the other data systems utilized by the company.

Similarly, the design of the financial model should also mirror any management reporting at the product, customer, department, or business unit level. In any case, the modeler should discuss with management the benefits and tradeoffs of creating a financial model with too much detail and complexity. The level of detail should be limited to the most important components for managing the business.

Incorporation of Actual Results

The development of an “evergreen” financial planning model requires designing into the model the ability to seamlessly incorporate actual business and financial results, given system constraints. This feature will allow management to easily review and analyze trends and anomalies in the data over the relevant period and into the future. If the level of detail in the financial model is consistent with that used in management reporting, the incorporation of the actuals should be rather straightforward.

Creating several data worksheets that include both the financial and non-financial actual results and developing a mechanism in the model that substitutes the forecasted values with the actual values will usually do the trick.

In scoping this feature of the financial model, the modeler should consider the complexities in getting actual data from multiple systems and sources and whether it may result in conflicting answers which would require costly manual reconciliation efforts and reduced confidence in the data.

Input and Buy-in from Management

In developing a financial planning model, as an old adage suggests, an ounce of planning is worth a pound of rework. As you may have realized, a financial model can be a rather complex business tool and having to rework major components of a financial model can be both time consuming and costly. So, early in the business planning and scoping process, it is advisable to spend a good amount of time outlining the scope of the model with management and getting a good understanding of how the company manages its business.

It is also very important to get management input into key assumptions that drive the forecasted results, in order to establish management buy-in to the plan. The key assumptions will likely focus on the sales growth projections, timing of product or market launches, product and service pricing structure, the personnel plan, including timing of hires and compensation structure, capital expenditure timing and amount and capital raising (timing, amount and valuation), to name a few. As the model matures and the key assumptions become more grounded in the historical trends of the company, the amount of input from management will likely decline.

Effective financial planning and forecasting is a critical business discipline for any company. When performed properly, it provides a tremendous decision support tool for management, who, in turn, can profoundly improve the quality and timing of their analysis and decisions, increasing the odds of success of the business.

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A distinguished member of the Optimal Thinking business plan writing team ( ), Don Wright, MBA, CMA, CFM has more than 15 years of senior level experience (VP or CFO) as a “roll-up the sleeves” finance executive in the healthcare IT, healthcare services, software and technology industries.

He has positioned early stage and emerging growth companies for rapid growth with successful business plans. He is particularly attentive to financial planning and modeling, establishing accounting policies and procedures, and accessing start-up and growth capital.

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Business Plans for Companies in Crisis
(Planning in the Eye of the Storm)

Business plans sometimes require a different definition of success: “Survival.” On September 11, 2001, while on my way to work, I turned on the radio. I learned that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At first, no one knew if it was an accident or something else. It was something else. When I arrived at the office, we turned on the television and watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center. Subsequently another plane hit the Pentagon, and a fourth on its way to the White House crashed in Pennsylvania.

We had six retail locations within a mile of the White House that were closed off by government troops. We had six retail locations within a mile of the Pentagon. They were also closed off by government troops. Our highest volume, highest profit store was located at Reagan National Airport. The airport was closed down as were many airports across the country where we had retail locations. 70 percent of our remaining locations were located in the lobbies or basements of high rise office buildings from Chicago to Denver to Houston to Atlanta.

For all practical purposes, we were completely shut down. The stores that could reopen were empty. People were watching events unfold on television, or calling to find out about the status of their friends or loved ones. Our business planning process gained urgency and dramatically changed from earnings growth to “Survival.”

Our first questions were “How much cash do we have? Where is it located? Where can we get more?” Our business planning process included contingency planning, although we had not envisioned anything of this magnitude. We considered how to meet payroll and pay our vendors. Fortunately, we had always kept a modest cash reserve for contingencies and some wiggle room on our line of credit. However, we also knew we could not rely on our banks once they understood the scope of the crisis. We had to develop a custom business plan that utilized internal resources while we were operating in the eye of the storm.

Business Planning in the Eye of the Storm

Communication is the first tenet of successful business plans in crisis management ( ). After informing our Board of Directors and all employees of the crisis and promising regular updates, the leadership team met and developed a custom business plan for survival, designed action plans, and started implementation within 24 hours. Our highest priority was survival and “Survival means cash.” Our survival business plan in the eye of the storm included:

1. Reopening our retail outlets as fast as possible. Our operations team was assigned the task of reaching all of our 400 managers and developing a plan to reopen approximately 150 locations within 30 days.

2. Accelerating Cash Receipts.
a. We polled all restaurant bank accounts and reduced the float to pull in cash.
b. We transferred contingency funds to the operating accounts.

3. Squeezing the Balance Sheet.
a. We accelerated efforts to collect receivables by calling customers and franchisees.
b. We negotiated with vendors to temporarily postpone payments where practical.
c. We postponed all but emergency capital expenditures and halted construction of new restaurants.
d. We reduced inventories.

4. Developing a business plan that was cash flow positive in 60 days, including financial exhibits and action plans.

5. Calling our insurance agent to ensure coverage and estimate timing of insurance receipts based on our risk management planning process.

6. Retaining the crisis management consultant identified in the contingency planning section of our formal business plan to assist with ideas to save the business.

7. Evaluating asset sales and sold several restaurants to pay down debt.

8. Retaining bankruptcy counsel and developed a bankruptcy contingency plan.

Professional Business Plans Include Contingencies

In a bankruptcy, the first priorities are the employees and unsecured creditors, not shareholders and lenders. Retaining competent bankruptcy counsel was part of our contingency plan while we were planning in the eye of the storm. Bankruptcy counsel explains how the process works, helps estimate the moves of external parties, and assists in developing survival strategies.

I don’t recommend filing for bankruptcy without very careful consideration. Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy is a very difficult process. It’s like playing five chess games simultaneously with employees, unsecured creditors, secured creditors, landlords and shareholders, each vying to improve their positions on the chessboard. Significant personal liabilities for taxes and other liabilities for officers and employees can occur if handled improperly. Planning for contingencies and readiness to file in a crisis situation can be critical to reaching the goal of survival while operating in the eye of the storm.


Despite our best efforts, we were forced to file for Chapter 11 to achieve our objective of survival. While we accelerated payments on our secured loan and continued with regular and accurate communications with our banks, our lead bank placed us in default, cancelled our line of credit, turned us over to the workout department and eventually sold the loan. Our primary vendor would not extend additional credit. A key officer became ill. Insurance companies did not pay our claims on time.

We were able to reopen less than half of the closed retail outlets including the highest profit location at Reagan National Airport within the first 30 days. However, due to our professional business plans in the eye of the storm, we survived.

While in bankruptcy, we ran a successful auction process with multiple bidders, doubling the value of the first bid, became cash flow positive within 60 days, successfully sold the company, paid down a significant amount of the unsecured and secured debt, and saved thousands of jobs without personal liability to officers and directors.

Now, here’s the good news. 15 years later the company is still operating. We successfully executed our business plan to survive, in the eye of the storm.

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An accomplished member of the business plan writing team , Thomas (Tom) J. Sandeman, MBA is an experienced CEO, CFO who has been a guest lecturer at Louisiana State University, Tulane University and The Turnaround Management Association on the topic of turnarounds.

As a member and former Chairman of the CFO’s group of the National Restaurant Association, he has developed business plans for buying and selling companies including a 1600 location, international franchise. Tom has written over thirty annual business plans for start-ups, public and private equity owned companies and developed business plans to successfully raise over $450,000,000 of debt and equity capital in the food service, wholesale and healthcare industries including an Initial Public Offering (IPO).

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Custom Business Plans: Critical Legal Considerations
by Richard L. Daniels – JD/MBA

The objective of a top-tier business plan is to achieve the strongest actionable guide or blueprint for a new business venture. A premier investment plan is an all-inclusive business plan with an additional purpose: it lays out the case for potential investors to put their funds to work. Such business plans fully describe the vision of the owners, the underlying compelling proposition, and all aspects of the organization, including specific legal implications. Perhaps most significantly, a first-rate custom business plan unequivocally portrays the company’s commercial viability.

When entrepreneurs and business executives begin thinking about launching a new company, they usually focus on the overall strategy, company name, finances, and how to market their product or service. While all these matters are important and part of business planning, legal considerations are often neglected.

In today’s sophisticated and highly regulated environment, legal issues are an integral part of any business and play an important role in a well crafted business plan. Incorporating legal viewpoints into a business plan achieves a number of purposes; it forces the founders to think through each and every factor that impacts the overall operation of the business. Considering these legal implications during the development of the overall strategy and including them in the plan, results in savings of time, effort, and money.

Legal topics that are best integrated into a comprehensive business plan include:

1) The company’s corporate structure
2) Licensing and registration of the proposed business
3) Contracts and agreements that enable the business to run smoothly and profitably
4) Development and protection of the company’s intellectual property
5) Risk management

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of the legal issues facing a new business, it is a good start to assist the founders in launching their venture. Describing how the proposed company will address each of these areas will make the business more attractive for investment and assist the founders in implementing the company’s strategy.

Corporate Structure

A threshold question when starting a new business is, “Which legal entity is most advantageous to the proposed firm?” By answering this question early on, ownership of the new organization can be settled. The business plan should explain the corporate structure and why it will be most suitable for the business. Moreover, a narrative of how the founders have taken the appropriate steps to create the entity, and compliance issues are usually addressed.

Three different entities that can be utilized to structure a new business:

1) Sole proprietorship
2) Partnership or a limited liability company (LLC)
3) Corporation (either an “S” corporation or “C” corporation)

A sole proprietorship is the most cost effective entity and requires the least amount of legal documentation. However, a sole proprietorship subjects the owner to personal liability.

If a partnership is utilized, then a partnership agreement must be prepared, setting forth the responsibilities and potential liabilities of each partner, and whether any partners are general versus limited partners.

If an LLC is the chosen entity, then additional documents including an operating agreement must be prepared and properly filed.

Finally, if the proposed business is a corporation, a decision as to whether an “S” corporation or a “C” corporation is most in line with the business must be made, and whether the company should be privately or publicly traded. A corporation can be useful in avoiding personal liability for the founders of the company.

A professional custom business plan describes the chosen corporate structure, explain why it will contribute to the success of the business, and documents the steps that have been taken to satisfy the legal requirements.

Many entrepreneurs do not plan to operate as a corporation due to the complexity and start up costs. However, once the business is successful, transitioning to a corporate structure can be contemplated within an updated business plan.

License and Registrations

In order to operate legally in most forums, licenses and registrations are required by various governmental agencies. Understanding these legal obligations prior to writing a business plan requires the founders to think about their business from a practical standpoint.

Documenting the legal requirements that must be met in order to conduct business proves to investors that the founders have executed due diligence. This vital requirement of a professional business plan, not only attracts investors, but also serves as a guide to the founders before the company even opens its doors.

Contracts & Agreements

Companies need numerous agreements and contracts to operate optimally. The strategy and operations of the new organization determine which contracts and agreements are needed. The drafting of these contracts and agreements is a key factor in the success of the business. Baseline considerations include:

• leasing space versus buying property to house corporate offices
• the key executives necessary for the success of the business
• sales and distribution channels to deliver the products or services

The above list represents just a few of the central questions that need to be addressed. Once these determinations have been made in conjunction with the company’s overall strategy, the business plan should reference important terms of these contracts and agreements.

Development and Protection of Intellectual Property

In today’s very complicated commercial environment, it is crucial to determine which intellectual property (IP) is necessary for the proposed business, and confirm whether it can be owned and protected. New companies must file patents on new technologies, ensure their proposed brand, company and domain names are available and can be protected by trademark. These steps are essential to determine if the proposed business is viable. For example, if a patent cannot be issued on an underlying technology, then the proposed business may be of no value.

Once the IP is developed and protections are in place, the business plan should include a summary of the IP as a business asset. Inclusion of the IP summary comforts investors that the company’s valuable IP is safe¬. There have been too many situations where companies have failed to secure their IP, resulting in a great deal of time and money to re-brand and develop new IP. These unnecessary delays and costs are always considered and addressed in a first-rate business plan.

Risk Management

It is important to factor in the types and limits of insurance necessary to protect a new business. Additionally, when entering into contracts with third parties such as product manufacturers, raw material or component part suppliers, or other vendors who may subject the business to future liability, the insurance needs should be thoughtfully considered and addressed in contracts. A description of the types of insurance required, including their limitations, demonstrates the forward thinking of the founders. They have considered potential liabilities and have put in place protections against these contingencies.


A comprehensive business plan is critical to operate and grow a new business, and obtain necessary funding. A top-notch business plan enables the founders to thoroughly present their vision, both internally and to prospective investors. By including relevant legal considerations, the founders demonstrate the maturity and business savvy to impress existing and potential stakeholders.

. . .

Richard (“Rich”) L. Daniels is an experienced legal executive who provides strategies and solutions to maximize business operations, mitigate risk, and minimize costs. As a distinguished member of the business plan writing team ( ), he develops revenue streams by structuring business plans and contracts to the best advantage of clients.

For more information about custom business plans from, visit or call 1-424-204-6133.

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