Thursday, February 18, 2010

Writing a Business Plan for Aging in Place

I presented the first draft of the business plan for Aging in Place in Darien to the Strategic Planning Committee, and they loved it. Going through the planning process and then reading an actual draft of the resulting plan helped us all sort through our thoughts and goals, ask ourselves more questions, then really focus on how to make everything extremely clear for us and for a potential board of directors and funders.

I'm now editing.

The process of business planning has so much value. I wish more people understood this. One person on our committee is a member of SCORE (a volunteer group that helps entrepreneurs with their plans for free). Interestingly, he said, "I hope you charge a lot when you do plans for business owners. This has real value. It's an outstanding plan."  (I'm donating my time to Aging in Place as my own form of personal outreach to the community. I also sit on the Advisory Board.) But I was struck by the comment. I told him that many entrepreneurs think I charge too much for my service. He said they don't understand what I can do.

Basically, I get people to think and to explain all facets of their their business. I take that and write it all down in a way that tells a clear story of the true value of the company. The resulting document becomes a road map for achieving goals and a marketing document to attract investors -- or in this case --  funders.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Starting a Business to Help People

When Paul Hogan saw how his mother's care for her mother (his grandmother) yielded better health and a better, longer life for his grandmother, it provided him with inspiration to start his own business providing such care for others. He formed Home Instead Senior Care. The story of how he did this and turned the company into an organization with franchises all over the world was in the New York Times on Sunday, February 14, 2010.

Here is a link. It is a story worth reading because it shows how personal experience of seeing a real need for real people can be translated into a solid business that fills that need. This is the essence of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Value of Teamwork

Pundits, gurus, consultants and inspirational speakers all write and speak about the value of teamwork. "Are you a team player?" is one question I've gotten asked in countless job interviews. After awhile, it just seems like a trite idea that everyone loves to spout.

But in the past few weeks, the value of real teamwork has been driven home to me four times.

1. When I played paddle tennis over the weekend, my partner and I enjoyed the connection of real teamwork. We backed each other up, rather than poaching on each other. We used our different skills to cover the court to return our opponents balls no matter how they were hit to us. It enabled us to win our first set.

2. When our strategic planning group for Aging in Place in Darien met to hash out the core of our business plan, we had a full spectrum of perspectives as to the direction we ought to take. We did agree on mission, and with that as our guide, we each were able to list our goals, listen to each other and seriously consider what others had to say. I found the process really powerful because it forced us to think outside our own mindsets. In the end, we were able to form a consensus. And I daresay, our conclusions were much stronger than if just one of us had developed our goals in a vacuum.

3. When I prepared a dinner for a working women's group at our church, I did it with two good friends. By splitting up the food preparation, set up and clean up, we were able to serve a great meal and enjoy the fellowship of our gathering without a lot of stress and strain. Together we were more like Mary than Martha.

4. My husband and I faced the unpleasant and somewhat daunting task of cleaning up a mess left by a contractor. The contractor in question said he'd come back but hadn't yet shown up. So my husband and I researched cleanup methods on the internet, and then he started the job. When he got tired, he showed me what to do, and I took over. Before long, we had our problem licked. My husband said our tag-team approach had worked well. I agree.

If you're running or starting a business, playing a game, running a family or volunteering, think a bit about how you can help the others on your team -- and how they can help you. More than one brain and set of eyes and ears can add tremendous value to the end result.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Writing a Nonprofit Business Plan

I'm doing something I ordinarily would not do -- writing a business plan without being compensated for my time. I'm doing it for several reasons: a) It's for a start-up nonprofit I really believe in, b) I'm a founding member, and c) I'm on the advisory board.

This makes the experience somewhat akin to writing my own plan for my own start-up. And it makes me realize from a new perspective how incredibly valuable the business planning process is. I've had clients tell me that the process was more useful to them than the actual final plan. Now I know why.

Sitting down with your management team and/or your board to hash out the questions of what your organization really hopes to accomplish and how you will accomplish it is actually quite hard for people/entrepreneurs/business owners. You believe you have this great idea. But can you explain it succinctly? What words are you actually going to write down to get the ideas across? What is the heart of your business? Can the whole team come together and form a consensus about this?

Focusing on answering these and other key questions is amazing and empowering. And interestingly, the more you answer, the more new questions arise. What will it really take to get this nonprofit off the ground? Can you convince others to fund your start-up? What can you say that will compel angels to part with their money and support your mission? What makes your organization so unique that it truly deserves to exist so that it can serve the community? Does it add to the public good?

We're not done with the process yet. I'll keep you posted on our progress. All I can say is that if you have not gone through the process of developing a formal business plan, you are missing a great opportunity to really think through your business and what you want to achieve with it.

In case you're curious, the nonprofit in question is Aging in Place in Darien.