Category Archives: Business

Business Plan For Easy Plan

So, you have decided to start up a new business. You begin to do some research and find that almost everything you read recommends that you produce a business plan. Why is this so? Because the benefits of compiling a business plan are numerous – not least, the fact that committing your thoughts to paper dramatically improves your prospect of getting started in the first place. A business plan also helps you gain a holistic view of the business and helps you to devise a strategy to ensure a successful launch for your idea.

Having decided to produce a business plan, there are three main ways to write one:

1. Pay someone to write it.

2. Write it yourself using Microsoft® Word and Excel.

3. Write it using a task-specific software product such as Business Plan Pro UK Edition.

If you, like many entrepreneurs, are time rich and cash poor, option 1 quickly removes itself from the equation, given the cost of having someone write a plan for you.

You are then faced with the choice between using Business Plan Pro or building everything yourself, from scratch, in Microsoft Word and Excel. Why are we not recommending otherbusiness plan software options? Because Business Plan Pro is the best business planning software available – without exception. Palo Alto Software (the maker of Business Plan Pro) has a proud history, has had category leadership for years and has extensive lists of testimonials and independent reviews on the website, all corroborating this view. By all means, consider other software options; however, we are confident that your own analysis will reveal that Business Plan Pro stands head and shoulders above the alternatives.

When it comes to using Word and Excel there are undoubted benefits – not least the fact that they are ‘free’ in the sense that they are bundled on most PCs. The interface is also familiar, given the popularity of their use. However, while these tools are excellent when you know exactly what you need to produce, they offer negligible assistance when it comes to producing specific content, such as that required for a business plan. If the purpose of the business plan were simply to jot down a few notes to keep you on track, they would suffice. However, if you intend to circulate the plan to peers, colleagues or prospective investors, you will need to produce a plan worthy of your name. After all, you are the author!

Here are the reasons why we believe that using Business Plan Pro is the easiest way to write a business plan:

1. Offers significant time saving

Business Plan Pro was designed to help you write a plan as efficiently as possible. It comes with extensive help, lots of examples and expert advice.

2. Provides the structure

Business Plan Pro walks you through a list of specific tasks, step by step, in stark contrast to the blank screen and flashing cursor you face when you create a new document in Microsoft Word.

3. Includes hundreds of examples

Business Plan Pro includes over 500 sample plans so you can browse plenty of examples to help give you ideas.

4. Ensures you do not leave out any sections

Over ten years of history means that we know what sections to include, where they should appear in the document and what you need to put in them.

5. Makes the numbers part easy

We recognise that while compiling the financials is an essential part of any plan, it is a very challenging area. We have simplified this process with the inclusion of easy-to-use financial wizards and automatic calculations, linking together all the financials from Start-up costs toSales Forecast to Personnel Expenses to Cash Flow to Profit and Loss.

6. Free support available

Alongside the extensive in-product help, we also offer a free support line and a comprehensive help facility on our website.

7. Signposts relevant resources at appropriate points

The software also includes links to relevant local resources where you can read specific advice on any areas with which you need further assistance, including trademarks, company formations, and more.

8. Designed specifically for producing a business plan

Whereas Microsoft Word is a general purpose tool, Business Plan Pro is designed specifically to help you write a business plan with the least amount of hassle.

Big Presentation For Business

download-1It’s not easy getting ready for a big presentation. The stakes can feel high, and in our desire for things to go well, the anticipation builds. Fear, anxiety, or even paralysis can kick in. What can you do to calm your nerves when this happens?

Observe, Accept, and Reframe

First, recognize that feeling anxious or being nervous before a big presentation is normal. The human fight-or-flight response kicks in, attempting to ward off the threat. But instead of running or fighting, which just creates more resistance and angst, simply observe those instincts and get comfortable with the idea that discomfort is part of the game.

Consider Bill Russell, a five-time winner of the NBA’s most valuable player award and a 12-time all-star who is often credited for leading the Celtics to 11 NBA championships. Before games, Russell was often so nervous that he threw up. But he didn’t let his nerves get in the way of his performance on the court. Like Russell, we can recognize that nerves are part of our process, and rather than beat ourselves up about it, we can go out and perform at a championship level.

world and founder of SmartMouth Communications, has worked with professional athletes as well as leaders in organizations on presentations and media training. Over the course of a 30-year career in PR, corporate communications, and coaching, Levine says, “almost everyone I’ve worked with has some version of feeling nervous before big presentations. It’s the rare person who doesn’t get nervous. Therefore, it’s best to embrace nervousness rather than resist it or push it away.”

Once we notice what’s happening, without judgment, we can calmly reframe the situation to take the edge off our dread. Levine advises, “Think of a quarterback playing in his first Super Bowl game. Yes, he may be nervous, but he’s not dreading it or seeing it as an obligation. He’s seeing it as a great opportunity that he’s ready to sink his teeth into. The nerves are a signal that this is something that matters to him.”

Get Present by Returning to Your Body

When we let our nerves get the best of us, we lose our presence in the moment and get hooked into an incessant stream of critical or worrisome thoughts in our minds: What if I fail? What if this doesn’t go well? What will they think of me?

Bringing awareness to our physical bodies can help. Notice the physical sensations happening: a racing heart, shallow breathing, tightening of the chest, sweat, a cracking voice. Be aware of your body’s cues and take a deep breath to regain some sense of the present. Notice your surroundings. Anchor or touch something physical, such as a table or the slide advancer, or push your weight into your toes and feet. Here are a few other ways you can help calm your nerves by tuning into your body:

  • Don’t take the basics for granted. Get a good night’s sleep, hydrate, and watch your caffeine intake before a big presentation so that your heart rate isn’t already elevated. Also, make sure that you’ve eaten a good meal and that you aren’t going in hungry.
  • Strike a power pose. Some research has shown that holding strong physical poses (e.g., hands on hips, feet apart, like Wonder Woman) can make you feel more confident. One paper found it even led to hormonal changes, though that finding has since been disputed. But even if power poses are just a placebo effect, plenty of people say this technique helps them feel grounded before a big talk.
  • Shift your center of gravity. Stand up and take a deep breath. Imagine a heavy lead ball in your stomach. Feel the weight of it. Feel the solidity of it. Bring your focus here instead of to your head or chest.
  • Own the space. If you can, get to the room early and really imagine owning it. Walk the perimeter, check out the configuration, and notice the size of the room. Like a radio dial, think about how much you can authentically dial up your volume, expression, or gestures to match the size of room.


Prepare a Great Opening and Warm Up

Good preparation can help ease the nerves. Try to allot time for organizing your thoughts, determining the best flow, and drafting your talking points. Be mindful of the ratio of time spent preparing slides and preparing what you are going to say; most of us spend way too much time on slides. Practicing flow and transitions can also be helpful (but be careful of becoming overly scripted). The most important thing you can do is prepare and practice the opening of your presentation, which will set the stage for everything that follows. As Levine says, “The adrenaline rush of nerves usually dissipates in about two minutes. Start by saying something positive or unexpected to set the tone.”

Levine describes an executive she coached who was nervous about preparing for a series of intranet videos for employees. She had him set the tone for the audience and himself by smiling and saying something positive and authentic, such as, “I love being here and what we get to do each day.” This helped him relax and ease into the rest of the video.

Employees or not

Two extraordinary changes have crept up on the business world without most of us paying much attention to them. First, a staggering number of people who work for organizations are no longer traditional employees of those organizations. And second, a growing number of businesses have outsourced employee relations; they no longer manage major aspects of their relationships with the people who are their formal employees. These trends are unlikely to reverse themselves anytime soon. In fact, they’ll probably accelerate. And they’re happening for some very good reasons, as we’ll see.

That said, the attenuation of the relationship between people and the organizations they work for represents a grave danger to business. It’s one thing for a company to take advantage of long-term freelance talent or to out-source the more tedious aspects of its human resources management. It’s quite another to forget, in the process, that developing talent is business’s most important task—the sine qua non of competition in a knowledge economy. If by off-loading employee relations, organizations also lose their capacity to develop people, they will have made a devil’s bargain indeed.

If by off-loading employee relations, organizations also lose their capacity to develop people, they will have made a devil’s bargain indeed.

Every working day, one of the world’s biggest private employers, the Swiss company Adecco, places nearly 700,000 temporary and full-time clerical, industrial, and technical associates with businesses all over the world—perhaps as many as 250,000 workers in the United States. Adecco is the temp industry giant, but it has only a small share of a totally splintered global market. In the United States alone, there are thousands of such companies that together place some 2.5 million workers each day. Worldwide, at least 8 million, if not 10 million, temp workers are placed each day. And 70% of all temps work full time.

When the temp industry first started nearly 50 years ago, it supplied low-level clerks to take the place of ledger keepers, receptionists, telephone operators, stenographers, or the ladies in the typing pool who were sick or on vacation. Today there are temp suppliers for every kind of job, all the way up to CEO. One company, for instance, supplies manufacturing managers who can lead new plants from their inception until the facilities are in full production. Another supplies highly skilled health care professionals such as nurse anesthesiologists.

In a related but distinct development, the professional employee organization (PEO) was the fastest-growing business service in the United States during the 1990s. These businesses manage their clients’ employees as well as their clients’ employee relations—that is, the administrative, HR kinds of tasks associated with managing those employees. PEOs were virtually unknown only ten years ago but by 2000 had become the “coemployers” of 2.5 million to 3 million blue-collar and white-collar U.S. workers. There are now at least 1,800 such organizations; they even have their own trade association and their own monthly journal.

PEOs, like temp agencies, have vastly expanded their scope in recent years. The first PEOs in the late 1980s offered to do bookkeeping, especially payroll, for their clients. Now PEOs can take care of almost every task in employee management and relations: record keeping and legal compliance; hiring, training, placements, promotions, firings, and layoffs; and retirement plans and pension payments. PEOs originally confined themselves to taking care of employee relations at small businesses. But Exult, probably the best known PEO, was designed from the start to be the coemployer for global Fortune 500 companies. It numbers among its clients BP Amoco, Unisys, and Tenneco Automotive. Founded just four years ago, it has already gone public and is traded on the Nasdaq. Another PEO, designed originally to handle payroll functions for businesses with fewer than 20 employees, is about to take on managing the 120,000 employees of one of the largest U.S. states.

Both the temp industry and the PEOs are growing quickly. Adecco is expanding at a rate of 15% a year. In the second quarter of 2001, Exult’s revenue grew 48%, from$43.5 million to $64.3 million. And the PEO industry as a whole is growing at a rate of 30% a year. Collectively, PEOs expect to be the coemployers of 10 million U.S. workers by 2005.

The reader may wonder, How can a manager function if she’s not in charge of hiring, promoting, or firing the people in her department? I posed this question to a senior executive at BP Amoco whose workers, including senior scientists, are now managed by Exult. His answer: “Exult knows it has to satisfy me if it wants to keep the contract. Sure, they make the decision to fire someone or move them. But normally only because I suggested it or after they consulted with me.”

Clearly, something is happening in employee relations that does not fit with what the management books still write about and what we teach in business school. And it surely does not fit with the way HR departments at most organizations were designed to function.

Strangled in Red Tape

The reason usually offered for the popularity of temporary workers is that they give employers flexibility. But far too many temps work for the same employer for long periods of time—sometimes year after year—for that to be the whole explanation. And flexibility surely does not account for the emergence of PEOs. A more plausible explanation for the popularity of these trends is that both types of organizations legally make “nonemployees” out of people who work for a business. The driving force behind the steady growth of temps and the emergence of the PEOs, I would argue, is the growing burden of rules and regulations for employers.

The cost alone of these rules and regulations threatens to strangle small businesses. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the annual cost of government regulations, government-required paperwork, and tax compliance for U.S. businesses employing fewer than 500 employees was somewhere around $5,000 per employee in 1995 (the last year for which reliable figures are available).That amounts to about a 25% surcharge on top of the cost of employee wages, health care, insurance, and pensions—which in 1995 was around $22,500 for the average small-business employee. Since then, the cost of employment-related paperwork is estimated to have risen by more than 10%.

Automation Of Customer Relationship

Our digital universe is vast and growing exponentially, expected to swell to 44 zettabytes of data by 2020. (For reference, one zettabyte is 1,000,000,000,000 gigabytes.)

Companies have attempted to use this tremendous amount of data in ways that make our lives better. In the consumer world, retailers analyze and apply data in real time for a number of uses: to predict purchasing behaviors and optimize which products get shown on a page as someone scrolls; to allow financial institutions to pinpoint and stop fraudulent transactions in a fraction of a millisecond; and to help health care companies more effectively diagnose and treat patients, to name just a few examples.

But in the enterprise world, data has traditionally been siloed, unwieldy, and manually entered into database systems such as customer relationship management software, or CRM. And other than moving from on-site to the cloud, CRM has not changed much since its inception in the 1990s.

I run an enterprise technology company, and we’ve seen just how consistently data can be used to help improve sales. But for all its good intentions to provide sales managers with a way to monitor pipeline and sales activity, we all know that CRM is still hugely inefficient. Reps are required to spend time manually entering data, and then spend more time searching through it. While senior management clearly values the ability to monitor reps through CRM, the vast majority of salespeople dislike the extra work and overhead it creates and generally use CRM begrudgingly — and rarely to its full potential. This administrative work becomes more significant when you consider that, on average, reps spend only 11% of their time actively selling.

This, of course, seems horrendously outdated, given that we live in an era of Amazon recommendations and Siri. What if enterprise workflows were as smart and easy to use as Siri? What if sales reps benefited from suggested next actions, the way that drivers and shoppers do? What if CRM as we’ve known it is dead?

Just as Amazon proactively suggests to someone who has purchased a stroller that they may also want to buy the coordinating car seat, enterprise apps should proactively advise enterprise users on what the highest-value or most-urgent tasks are so they can prioritize them. Artificial intelligence and decision-support algorithms that can offer data-driven suggestions will unleash a new level of productivity among workers, allowing everyone to focus on what matters and to continually help one another improve.

Turning this into reality may be closer than you think, thanks to machine learning and predictive data engines.

For the majority of sales reps, their most frequent tasks right now aren’t necessarily their most important and they waste too much time calling the wrong people with messages that don’t resonate. Harnessing the power of machines to recommend actions and approaches allows every salesperson to become data driven, freeing their time to focus on the human trust and relationship aspects of closing business.

As interactions between reps and customers become more digital – whether it’s an exchange via Facebook, email, or text or a website visit — data analytics is beginning to demystify and delineate what successful sales reps are doing that others aren’t, what’s effective, and how to get others in the sales organization behaving in these same ways.

The profound limitations of traditional CRM are laid bare in today’s automated, predictive world. The days of using CRM merely as a sales tracking tool are over. The future of CRM, and of all software, is in suggested next actions powered by predictive analytics and a deep knowledge of a specific industry and business function’s workflows.

CRM isn’t dead (yet), but reps will cease to use it unless it can get smart and save them time, rather than burden them with time-intensive data entry and lookup. The future of CRM is harnessing predictive data to become a proactive system. Sales reps who are able to leverage robot assistants are the ones who will thrive in this new world.

How to Write a Winning Business Plan

Writing a business plan is one of the most important things an entrepreneur must do when starting a new business. However, writing a compelling business plan is easier said than done, particularly when time can be so precious. This article outlines the key resources available to UK entrepreneurs when preparing a business plan. Use them for assistance with the writing of the plan, as well as for understanding the implications of certain business decisions you make in the process, such as those regarding corporate structure, sources of funding, and more.

1. Business Plan Pro UK software

Business Plan Pro is the best-selling business plan software available for several reasons. It is easy to use, saves time, and has over 500 sample business plans to get you started. It also provides a structure whereby you can complete a plan in a methodical manner, while enabling you to benefit from a helping hand at every step.

Where: Business Plan Pro is available from
Cost: RRP is only £79.99 for the Complete version and £129.99 for the Premier.

2. Business plan competitions

Numerous business planning competitions are taking place in the UK at any given time. These competitions test a wide range of skills that are often neglected by entrepreneurs. By producing a credible business plan and presenting your case persuasively, you will significantly enhance your ability to secure funding. These business plan competitions are an invaluable resource enabling you to road test your business plan in a safe environment before submitting the plan to potential investors.

The main advantages of submitting a business plan to a competition include:

  • Tap into Increased Support for Entrepreneurs in the UK
  • Obtain Critical Independent Analysis of Your Business Plan
  • Gain Access to Mentors and Networking Opportunities
  • Improve key Transferable Skills, e.g. Presentation Skills
  • Enhance Your Understanding of What Investors Want

Where: Use a search engine such as Google to find a list of competitions
Cost: Entry costs are usually negligible, although some competitions limit entry to students or locals.

3. Start-up websites

There are a number of start–up websites that can help you understand what needs to be done and how. These websites normally consist of a mix of articles and relevant products and services from third-party vendors. Most also have specific business-planning sections to help you with your plan. The following three well-known UK sites can give you some further insights into the building blocks that make up a winning business plan.

Where: ,,
Cost: Free

4. Government sites

There are also a number of government websites designed to assist people in starting a business which can also help you in writing a business plan.

  • Companies House

The website contains information on incorporation procedures. It also provides annual accounts of companies which can be purchased so as to enable you to assess the financials of comparable companies.