Month: April 2015

Are Business Plans Dead?

by Kat Rico

Business plans have long been touted as the method for success if you are starting a new venture, but is the traditional business plan dead? Many entrepreneurs are intimidated by the idea of creating a document that can end up being in excess of 30 pages, let alone determining which sections they need and what goes in them. It’s also easy to assume that if you’re a small business (whatever your definition of small is), you don’t need a business plan, especially if you’re not seeking financing. 

So do you really need a business plan?
Short answer: Yes.

A business plan should be a guiding document for your business as a whole. It is not a static document that you create once, leave and never look at again. Your business plan should be what guides your vision and drives actions for all the decisions your business will make. Ideally, you should be revisiting your business plan at least annually, maybe even quarterly, to make sure you are on the right track. 

Does it need to be a massive 30 page document?
Short answer: Maybe not.

Not all businesses are the same, so it make sense that not all business plans need to be the same. Following are key elements you should have in any business plan, traditional or not:

Executive Summary – This is a short summary of what is in your plan, including what your vision for your business is, what your product or service is, and who will buy it. Do yourself a favor and write this section last, even though it is at the front of your plan.
Marketing Plan – Include information about the demographics of where you will be doing business and who your customers are, as well as how you will reach them (flyers, social media, website, events, etc.).
Operations – Give a snapshot of what the day-to-day practices of your business will look like, who will be your suppliers and who your key partners are.
Financials – This is arguably the most important part of your business plan. Where is the money coming from, where is it going, and how long will it take for your business to be profitable? Be honest about this section, overinflating numbers won’t do you any favors in the long run.
Goals – Use the SMART framework for setting your business goals for the next year, three years and five years out. This will help guide your decisions in the meantime and give you something to celebrate when you hit milestones.

While a traditional business plan may be overkill for some businesses, it is a very important guiding document, and the look of it will vary depending on how it is being used. You may even end up with two or three versions of it, one for you as the business owner, one to show to potential investors, and one for your management team.
Don’t let the process of writing this plan intimidate you! It is best that you, as the business owner, write this plan yourself as opposed to hiring someone to do it for you, because the plan will mean more to you in the end. There are templates available for free online to get you started, and the Larimer SBDC is here to help with free, confidential one-on-one consulting, as well as classes designed specifically to help you write a business plan.

Can You Shorten Your Selling Cycle?

Guest blog by Don Overcash of Sandler Training

Almost all salespeople will agree that the shorter the selling cycle, the better. 
Why? 

Because long selling cycles have two negative consequences:You’re less likely to be actively prospecting for new clients while you’re working on an existing opportunity. Consequently, your pipeline thins out, and if the deal you’re working on falls apart, you have fewer opportunities to fall back on. 

The longer you work on an opportunity, the more emotionally tied to it you become, and the more likely you are to make concessions (which typically eat into profits and your commission) to keep it “alive.”

What are the reasons for long selling cycles? 

For some salespeople, the amount of time it takes to secure an initial appointment with a prospect is excessive. For others, the amount of time spent defining and developing the opportunity is extreme. And for many, it’s the amount of time it takes to secure a decision after submitting a proposal of making a presentation that stretches the selling cycle beyond reasonable limits.

What can you do to close sales more quickly? 

Here are five specific strategies to shorten your selling cycle:

– Don’t start the cycle unless there is a compelling reason to do so.
– Call at the top.
– Deal with potential roadblocks early in the process.
– Disqualify opportunities as soon as possible.
– Obtain firm commitments. 

If you start with the right people…for the right reasons, deal with potential problems in the early stages of the process, rigorously qualify opportunities, and ensure that you and your prospects are on the same page at each stage of the process, you’ll be able to complete the selling process in a shorter period of time…which in turn means more sale.

To learn more about these fives specific strategies register today for the upcoming classes, “Establishing and Maintaining Relationships” and “It Is All About Qualifying“, led by Sandler Training for the Larimer SBDC. The classes are $40 each or we are offering special pricing of both for $60.

Top 3 Restaurant/Food Industry Issues

by Kat Rico
Photo credit: Erin Bibeau
Larimer County is a fantastic place for both restaurants and food product businesses. We sure do love some local flavor! Many businesses in this industry face three problems frequently, and if you’re planning to go into business in this area, you need to have a plan. According to our consultants who specialize in food products, here are three common issues you need to be ready to address as a business owner:

1. Cost control – This is absolutely the most important thing you can do to contribute to your business’s success. Wasted or spoiled food is literally throwing money in the trash, so being aware of this issue is incredibly important. Ask yourself: 

– How do we control food portions? 


– What are our best practices for managing inventory?


– What can we do to minimize spoilage? 


– Do we have the right partnerships with suppliers to get what we need, when we need it? 

Having trouble with cost control? On April 29, 2015, the Larimer SBDC is hosting a special panel and networking event entitled, “Controlling Your Costs in the Restaurant/Food Industry”, where we are bringing together four restaurant and food industry experts to share their knowledge with you. You’ll also have the opportunity to network and create potential partnerships with other business owners at this free event. To pre-register for this free event and for more information on our panelists, click here.
2. Creating a competitive advantage – Annual sales for Larimer County’s restaurant/food industry exceed $1 billion, so as you can imagine, standing out from the crowd is a challenge. Think critically about what you can do better than your competitors, the unique value your product provides and how to best position yourself for success. Some key questions to ask are:  – What ambiance does my product/restaurant convey?  – Does my product meet specific dietary/environmental concerns? If it doesn’t, can it?  – Who wants to buy my product and where will they want to buy it? 

3. Employee development and retention – It’s not just enough to get top talent, you have to keep it. Constantly retraining new staff is costly, both in money and time, and can negatively affect the moral of your staff and customer experience. Some quick tips for increasing employee retention: 

– As much as your ambiance needs to entice customers, that same attitude can help you keep hold of your best and brightest employees. 


 – Have a training program ready to roll out at a moment’s notice, so that when you do have to replace someone you can get your new employee up and running quickly.


– Keep a wary eye on staffing. Too many employees standing around will make them bored and cost you money. On the other hand constantly understaffing contributes to stressed employees and a poor customer experience.


– Your company may be small and there may not be much room for advancement, but giving your employees a chance to learn new skills will give them a reason to stay along with adding value to your business. Watch for trainings from community organizations and local colleges like the Larimer County Workforce Center and Front Range Community College.

If you’re having trouble narrowing your vision and creating your plan, the Larimer SBDC is here to help with free, confidential one-on-one consulting with experts who have been there, done that. 

Upcoming Estes Park Workshop: Google Analytics

Learn the Power of Google Analytics for your Business


The Estes Valley Library and the Estes Park Economic Development Corporation (Estes Park EDC) are partnering with the Larimer Small Business Development Center (Larimer SBDC) for a special workshop titled “Google Analytics” to be held Wednesday, April 22 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

Google offers a comprehensive package of analytics tools offered for free, but leveraging these tools for your business can be intimidating and overwhelming. Google Analytics shows you the full customer picture across ads and videos, websites and social tools, tablets and smartphones. That makes it easier to serve your current customers and win new ones.

In this workshop, Reu Smith of The Marketing Lab will cover how to use Google Analytics to: 

     • Read and set up analytics reports
     • Evaluate the information you read in the report

     • Change your site to see improvements in your ranking

     • Gain insider tips, tricks, and practices 

To take full advantage of all this workshop has to offer, please sign up for a free Google Analytics account at www.google.com/analytics. 
Come learn from a pro how to harness the powerful tools available to get your search results to where they should be, #1!
There is a registration fee of $30. Register by following this link and please call 970-498-9295 to pre-pay. A 48-hour notice of cancellation is required for a refund.

Controlling Your Costs in the Restaurant/Food Industry

Annual sales in Larimer County’s restaurant/food industry exceed $1B, and how well individual companies manage their costs in this highly-competitive business can mean the difference between success and failure. 

If you’re in the restaurant or food product industry, some common questions you may have regarding cost control are:

     • How do you control food portions?

     • What best practices do you follow for managing your inventory?

     • How do you achieve proper staffing during peak and off-peak times?

     • What policies do you recommend for getting the most value from your suppliers?

     • Suggestions for minimizing spoilage?

     • What are the critical metrics that you as an owner/manager track?
The Larimer SBDC is excited to bring together a panel featuring four area food industry specialists, who are willing to share their extensive knowledge with you! Please join us on Wednesday, April 29th for our “Controlling Your Costs in the  Restaurant/Food Industry” panel discussion and networking event. Learn from the pros, enjoy some beverages and light appetizers and connect with your fellow FoCo foodies!
Our featured panelists for this event are:

Henry
Mouton –

Henry was the COO/Sustainability Director for 26 years at The Rio GrandeMexican Restaurants, helping them grow to 7 locations. He is currently the
General Manager for Motherlove Herbal Company, a local manufacturer of herbal
organic supplements.

Linda Griego – Linda is the founder of Java Raiz, a new organic food line of coffee-infused California raisins. Java Raiz launched in 2011, and a percent of their profits are contributed to environmental programs.

Scott McCarthy – As Co-owner and Vice President of Hot Corner Concepts, Scott oversees business operations and management for The Moot House, two Austin’s locations, Enzio’s and Big Al’s. He has 27 years restaurant experience.
Robert Poland – Robert is Co-Founder and Vice-President of MouCo Cheesery, a fast-growing Fort Collins manufacturer of soft-ripened cheeses carried by national grocery chains like Whole Foods, and also found in many premium restaurants.
This panel is a free event, but we ask that you pre-register so that we have enough space for everyone. Our last food industry panel was standing room only, so reserve your seat now!
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