Starting your own business? Don’t skip a structured business plan

Clickner, Amy

Amy Clickner, CEO of Lake Superior Community Partnership

If you were to ask me what question I get asked most often by people who are looking to start their own business it would undoubtedly be; “Do I really need a business plan?”  My response is simple, if you want to succeed, yes, you do need a business plan.  Just like you wouldn’t build a house without plans or bake a cake without a recipe, you need to have plan for what your new venture will look like and how it will be funded.

With all of that being said, there are no hard and fast rules of what a business plan has to be or what it has to look like.  We have several guides at the Lake Superior Partnership Office and one of our business development representatives would be happy to sit down with you and go through them and find one that suits your personal style.  There are several things that a business plan needs to have:

  • An overview of your company
  • How you plan to structure it (a sole proprietor, LLC, Incorporation?)
  • Financials and Projections
  • Market Analysis
  • Industry Analysis
  • Competition
  • Human Resources Plan
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy
  • Management Plan
  • Exit Strategy

Most people take a look at that list and are turned off by it.  What does it mean?  Where am I supposed to get this stuff from?  Believe it or not, most of it you already know.  You know what you want your company to be, how you want it to run, what your financial situation is and what the day to day operations are going to look like.  Getting those out of your head and down on paper is an enormous first step.  From there, experts at the LSCP or SBDC can help you with the research and financial projections and the final packaging if you need to submit your business plan to a lender for financing.

Having a business plan and financial projections prepared for a lender is one reason that it is necessary to create one, but you may think that if you’re self-financing you can skip the process all together.  I don’t recommend it.  One of the most beneficial part of the planning process is that it help you work out the kinks in your plan and refine your ideas and budget.  In some cases after going through the planning process, people find that their business won’t be profitable and decide not to move forward, other times, they refine their ideas, sometimes the plan is just  a confirmation of what they already knew and no adjustments need to be made (this is extremely rare).

Owning your own business will be one of the most difficult and rewarding things that you will ever do, don’t shortchange yourself at the beginning by neglecting to prepare a plan.

Authored by: Amy Clickner, CEcD, CFRM, the CEO of Lake Superior Community Partnership. Amy is the Vice President of the Michigan Economic Developers Association.

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Economic Development Career Advancement

medayp_spring_education_eventI chose to write about career advancement in economic development in this month’s blog for various reasons. Among the most important are broadening the professional scope for economic development practitioners, uncovering better ways to address the multiple complexities related to today’s economic development climate, and providing more optimal opportunities for early-career professionals to learn about the practice. I write from the premise of having spent my entire career in various roles ranging from very traditional business development, to working on emerging talent and procurement initiatives, and now, being housed in corporate relations at an academic institution. Considering how my own career has evolved, my interest in developing the next generation of diverse thought-leaders in economic development has grown; which is why I have been committed to the MEDA – Young Professionals (MEDAYP) committee as the chair for the past two years.

MEDAYP efforts are focused on professional development for early-career talent. Two prominent programs that have continued for a second year are “Get Hired for a Day” and the Spring Education series, entitled “Getting Your Feet on the Ground.” Both activities aim to cultivate professionals and provide opportunities to learn more about how to grow and thrive in economic development. It is beneficial for the entire MEDA community because it is our professional responsibility to ensure that there is a well-supported and educated talent pipeline that can be hired into our organizations at various levels for advancement. Not only will it foster new innovations in our work, but also provide a healthy exchange of ideas to address the ever-changing professional climate.

Get Hired for a Day offers an exciting opportunity to generate more exposure for our profession. MEDAYP is looking for mentors and mentors and mentees, so please click the hyperlink to learn more and to sign up for this opportunity.

Getting Your Feet on the Ground is an opportunity for all levels of professionals seeking guidance on how to be effective in a professional environment that can seem broad and in a constant state of evolution. Highlights of creative, yet practical, program initiatives will be presented. Learn more and register by clicking the hyperlink.

Authored by: Clarinda Barnett-Harrison, Director, Business Engagement Center, University of Michigan-Dearborn. Clarinda is Co-Chair of MEDA’s Young Professionals Committee, MEDAYP.

Go For It!

Raised HandsEver think about joining a MEDA committee or running for the Board? And your next thought is probably “What am I thinking? Stop me before I volunteer again!” That’s normal. Everybody has plenty of work to do already. But I’d recommend doing it anyway. There is a lot to be gained on a personal level as well as for the good of the organization.

I’m about to rotate off of 6 years on the MEDA Board of Directors, and I have no clue how many years on the Education Committee.

What did that time mean to me?

  • Working with people from all over the state, which was a real education in different perspectives and issues.
  • Broadening my network of professional contacts
  • Educating our membership on my organization’s economic development efforts
  • Influencing the direction of a statewide organization
  • Working with some amazingly talented people

What is really unique about volunteering for MEDA is the professional support and attention to detail. John & Cassandra do the overwhelming majority of the legwork when the meeting is over. You will not walk out of a MEDA Committee or Board meeting with a bigger laundry list of work to do! Can’t beat that!

Some of you may be thinking, if it’s so great, why is she rotating off the Board? A fair question! Organizations need fresh blood – new ideas, new thinking. So, if you are at all interested, my advice is “Go for it!”

Authored by: Peggy Black, Principal Account Manager, DTE Energy. Peggy Black spent six years on MEDA’s Board of Directors and two of those years as President.

MEDA Members: View MEDA’s Active Committees and email cjorae@medaweb.org to let her know where you want to participate!

Educational Attainment Delivers Economic Returns

ImageIt has become known that education is the most important engine of economic growth and individual financial gain. There is little doubt that our success in growing a stronger economy and lifting incomes will depend on getting better results in education, from cradle to career.

Helping to address the regional goal of 60% educational attainment by 2025, I have the privilege of working with leaders at all levels in the education, nonprofit, community, civic, and philanthropic sectors to tackle some of the most pressing challenges and take advantage of some of our biggest opportunities. There are a variety of programs that track outcome indicators across the cradle to career spectrum with the ultimate goal of higher educational attainment at all levels.

Because this is such an important element in the future of our region, together we have evaluated the latest educational attainment data for our region, looking at both local progress and how we compare to other peer areas. Specifically, there is a clear positive relationship with median earnings and an inverse relationship with the unemployment rate at a national level.

Educational Attainment in the Urban Core

With the release of the American Community Survey (ACS) 2005-2009 5-Year estimates, Educational Attainment data are available for smaller geographies for the first time outside of the decennial censuses. The data are based on a rolling annual sample survey mailed to about 3 million addresses between Jan. 1, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2009. By pooling several years of survey responses, the ACS can generate detailed statistical portraits of smaller geographies. The Census Bureau will release a new set of 5-year estimates every year, giving communities a powerful tool to track local trends over time. In the urban core, the low hanging fruit is educational attainment for the 25-35 age group that has some college and the City of Grand Rapids knows that supporting the completion of a certificate program or a college degree in this age bracket will produce quick and meaningful results.

Educational Attainment in the Region

Educational Attainment is a key indicator for our region as a whole. Educational Attainment data from can be found for the entire Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), as well as by county, in the new census data portal. Data are provided on Percent of the Population 25 and Older with an Associate’s Degree or Higher, along with other indicators.

There is, of course, data to show multiple levels of attainment. MSA and peer region data related to the Percent of the Population 25 and Older with Bachelor’s Degree or Higher is something economic developers should evaluate and consider when determining what work still needs to be done.  

The data can also be broken out by other levels of attainment and by age. It is important to look at all the data and help ensure that our region is moving up at all levels. The data can also be broken out by age and this is where we see some positive movement for your region.

I challenge you to compare your city, county, village, township, region to others in the state and peers outside the state to determine how competitive you are now and what work is needed to make you more competitive in the future. The future of our state is our talent and if we don’t have a talented workforce we can’t attract the economic activity.

Authored by: Kara Wood, Economic Development Director, City of Grand Rapids. Kara serves as Treasurer on MEDA’s Board of Directors.