Veterans Business Resources

a portal for all Veterans and SDV Small Business Owners

Free Throws and Networking for Success

Free Throws and Networking for Success.  What do these 2 seemingly totally opposite activities have in common?  They both can and do lead to Success.  Success to the basketball player might mean winning another title or even the NBA Championship as was the case for the Los Angeles Lakers just a few weeks ago.  Success to the Government Contractor might mean winning another job, another contract, getting one step closer to building that world class organization.  We all have different definitions for success.  Your definition of success might be different than mine and that’s perfectly OK.  

Many years ago when I was in high school and I thought I had real game, basketball was my sport, hands down!  I loved the game and the game loved me back.  The reality is I was good.  I was good not because I possessed any special athletic skills, a prototypical basketball body or because I could jump out of the gym.  I could, but that’s another story.  I was good because I played within myself and focused on the basics.  The Los Angeles Lakers played within themselves, focused on the basics and as a result, won another NBA Championship.  Their winning game 7 from the charity stripe highlights 2 basics I want to focus on.  Those 2 basics are follow-through and follow-up.  Ask any basketball player that is also a good free throw shooter the secret to their success from the charity stripe and they might just tell you – the follow-through and the follow-up.  The secret of making free throws is NOT exclusively about the strength in ones wrist, although that can certainly be part of the process.  The secret is the process itself, the follow-through and the follow-up.  The secret to Networking is also very much about the process.  It is about the follow-through and the follow-up.  I will not give a class on proper free throw techniques, but I will use 2 elements of the process to illustrate how Free Throws and Networking can lead to Success.  

Networking done right will result in new acquaintances, new relationships and business cards.  Hey, that’s exactly what you wanted to get from the Networking event, right?  Now that you have this information, what are you going to do with it?  It has already been a few days since forming these new business relationships and getting this contact information.  What now?  This part is critical.  Now is the time to follow-through and follow-up on those contacts.  These relationships and information might just be the ones to provide the breakthrough you’ve been looking and working for.  Stay in the game….follow-through and follow-up for Success.

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The Business Plan

Back in the Getting Started section of the Contracting Checklist (Part 1) I told you to write a Business Plan.  Previous to that, I’d explained in some detail “why” you needed to write the Business Plan.  Thinking back through that sequence of events, it occurs to me that I directed you to perform a task without giving you enough background on what, when, where or how I wanted you to do that work.  I simply started the Contracting Checklist off by directing you to write a Business Plan! 

This is an excellent place to insert the 5 “Ws” and the How.  We will now pick up form that point and drill down a bit deeper.

• Who:  you, of course
• What:  write a Business Plan
• When:  at the beginning stages of formulating your business and update it throughout as the plan will change over time, as will your business
• Where:  keep it out in the open and refer to it often
• Why:  most seasoned entrepreneurs will tell you that by far the most value in writing a Business Plan is the though process behind it.  Writing a Business Plan forces you to see and think about all the holes in your plan and your business.  PLAN YOUR WORK AND WORK YOUR PLAN!
• How:  using one of the formats/outlines below;
                                  Outline of a Business Plan
Cover Sheet:  Name of business
                         Name of principals
                         Address and phone numbers (contact information)

Statement of Purpose:

Table of Contents:

Section One:  The Business

A. Business description
B. Product/service
C. Market (demographics and psychographics)
D. Location
E. Competition (strengths and weaknesses)
F. Management
G. Personnel
H. Funding (if needed)
I. Summary

Section Two:  Financial Data

A. Sources and use of funding
B. Capital equipment list
C. Financial statement assumptions
D. Balance sheet
E. Break-even analysis
F. Income projections (profit & loss statements)
        1.  3 year summary
        2.  Detail monthly first year
        3.  Detail quarterly years 2 and
G. Cash flow projections
        1.  3 year summary
        2.  Detail monthly first year
        3.  Detail quarterly years 2 and 3

H. Deviation analysis
I. Historical financial reports for existing business
        1.  Balance sheets for past 3 years
        2.  Cash flow for past 3 years
        3.  Income statements for past 3 years
        4.  Tax returns for past 3 years

Section Three: Supporting Documents
Personal resume, personal balance sheets, cost of living budget, 
credit reports, letters of reference, job descriptions, letters of intent, copies of leases, contracts, legal documents, and any additional
relevant information. 
                                           – OR –
                               Business Plan Outline

1. Executive Summary

2. Company Summary

a. Name 
b. Mission Statement/Objectives
c. Ownership 
d. Locations/Facilities 
e. Past-Present-Future Performance/ Development Stages
f. Products / Services 
g. Keys to Success 

3. Products/ Services
 
a. Description 
b. Manufacturing/ Production Plan
c. Supply / Distribution
d. Equipment and Technology
e. Research and Development
f. Quality Control

4. Competition

a. Identify
b. Competitive Comparison
c. Determine Competitive Advantage
d. Future Competition

5. Markets

a. Market Segmentation
b. Industry Analysis
i. Industry Characteristics
ii. Supply & Distribution
iii. Financial Patterns & Buying Patterns
iv. Vulnerability to Economic Factors
v. Regulatory Issues
c. Market Analysis

6. Strategy & Implementation

a. Marketing Strategy
i. Target Markets & Market Segments
ii. Marketing Plan
iii. Pricing Strategy
iv. Promotional Strategy
v. Distribution Strategy

b. Sales Strategy
i. Sales Force
ii. Sales Programs
iii. Sales Forecast
c. Strategic Alliances
d. Service & Support

7. Management

a. Organizational Structure
b. Management Team
c. Management Objectives & Style
d. Personnel Plan
e. Consultants/Specialists
f. Management to Be Added

8. Development & Exit Plans

a. Long Term Goals
b. Growth Strategy
c. Milestones
d. Risk Evaluation
e. Exit Plan

9. Financials

a. Determine Capital Needs
b. Key Financial Indicators
c. Projected Income Statement
d. Projected Cash Flows
e. Projected Balance Sheet
f. Break Even Analysis
g. Important Assumptions
h. Business Ratios
i. Sources and Uses of Funds

10. Appendix

a. Forms
b. Endorsements
c. Testimonials
d. Contracts

If neither of the two outlines appeal to you, perhaps you’d like to go to the link below from MasterCard.  This is a great link and it provides detailed information and explanations of various business tools.

http://www.mastercard.com/us/business/en/smallbiz/businessplanning/businessplanning.html

You can also get FREE help with your Business and Marketing Plans at your local Small Business Development Centers (SBDC).

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4 Basic Elements of Business

Government Contracting and General Business are more closely aligned than one might suspect.  Many of the same elements required to be successful in General Business are also required in Government Contracting.  For example, in each category, one must have; 

1.  Processes

2.  Relationships

3.  Homework/Research

4.  Niche 

Once we finally decide which business we’re going into.  Once we finally establish all the necessary logistics to accommodate and support our business.  Once we have all the financial and structural things in place.  Once we’re finally ready to hang our “Open for Business” sign out front and wait for the customers to beat a path to our business.  We do just that, we execute….we wait, and we wait and we wait and we wait some more, day after day and nobody comes.  The phone doesn’t even ring, nothing, nada, zip, zilch!  What happened?  What went wrong?  We planned everything so well.  We planned everything in great detail.  This is not an entirely unusual scene.  Many people face challenges and obstacles in starting and running a business.  There are many reasons a scenario like the one just described can happen.  This seemingly bad thing happened in this business because the owner’s target market was too broad, his service/product offering was too broad and he did a really terrible job MARKETING.  For those of us new to business there is a great temptation to have too broad a focus, too broad a market.  “I want to do business with everybody I can.”  “I want to target everybody I can possibly service.”  “If I don’t include them, I’ll run out of customers.”  No, not really.  What we want to do is “get rich in a Niche!”  Don’t make the whole watch, just make the spring for the watch.  Find the Niche in your business area, drill down, get specific about what you do or what you offer.  Strive to become the expert, strive to become the go to person for your specific industry.  When you do this, along with other things we’ll describe on the VBR page, you will ultimately realize the dreams you have for your business.        

       

 

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4 Basic Elements of Business

Government Contracting and General Business are more closely aligned than one might suspect.  Many of the same elements required to be successful in General Business are also required in Government Contracting.  For example, in each category, one must have; 

1.  Processes

2.  Relationships

3.  Homework/Research

4.  Niche 

The school bell rang some time ago, if we don’t hurry, we’re going to be late for class.  All good students know that to perform well in the classroom, we must prepare before class.  All good Veterans know that to perform well, we must prepare well before that big test, we must prepare before that big evaluation, we must prepare before that dress rehearsal, we must prepare before that full-dress rehearsal.  Government Contracting is no different.  Long before deciding which business sector you like and long before deciding which specific business to enter, you have to do your Homework/Research.  Some questions I imagine you might ask and want to find answers to include; 

  • What are my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • Is there a demand for my product or service?
  • Where is the demand for my product or service?
  • Who in government buys my product or service?
  • How does that government agency normally buy my product or service?
  • How much do I really know about the product or service I want to provide?
  • Where can I get more information about it?
  • Is there a lot of competition in the business sector I want to enter?
  • Is there an opportunity to be competitive?
  • What are the margins?
  • Can I earn a living in this business?
  • Can I build a business in this particular business sector?
  • How do I Market to the government?
  • Can I also sell my product or service to state and/or local government?
  • How do I establish a distribution network for my product or service?
  • What are the latest laws and decisions affecting Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB)?  

These are but a small sampling of the questions you will ask and answer about the business you are about to enter.  Yes my friends, we are back in school again.  We still have Homework assignments and we must still conduct Research.  We must study ourselves approved or prepare to face the consequences.  This new school bell rings less often than the school bells of our youth, but the consequences are much more severe and they arrive every 30 days or so.  We’ve got to ensure we get it right the first time because there is little margin for error.

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