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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Writing a Business Plan . . . help and suggestions
Dianna Russell, Photographer
Springfield | MO | USA | Posted: 12:40 AM on 09.20.04
->> I’m looking for advice on writing up my first business plan and am wondering the best way to do this. A few questions:

Those who have written one, did you use software to do it? If so, which one? I found this on the SBA website
http://www.bplans.com/common/products/?manager=bs&DCMP=ILC-startingcosts or, for a little more money http://www.paloalto.com/ps/bp/premier.cfm has anyone used either one?

Any suggestions or advice would be wonderful. Thanks.

Dianna
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Cap Hugho, Photographer
Ridgecrest | CA | USA | Posted: 1:25 AM on 09.20.04
->> I think software "templates" provide a good starting point in approaching a good plan....any plann; for that matter. If there's a demo ("try before buy") go for it...nothing to loose.
A sound business plan is always a "work in progress" and serves as a "strawman" that will be modified as you progress through the different phases of your approach.
While I haven't given you specifics, a cost plan will play an important role in your decision process. A time frame and schedule is also quite difficult to lay out.
Good thinking and anticipating consequence of each action or decision will help. Decision trees are important asa well as flow charts.
Defining your "requirements" are always difficult and should not be tasken lightly in your approach.
A lot more than can be written here.....but a plan is a must and always subject to change to accomodate an ever changing marketplace.
Good luck!
-cap
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Brian Jackson, Photographer, Photo Editor
South San Francisco | CA | USA | Posted: 1:29 AM on 09.20.04
->> The books and online things are nice for an overview, but there really is no set thing as a business plan. I would avoid the software, you can do better on your own.

You're better off with $1.25 in library fines and checking out several books on business plans, flipping through them to get a general idea of the parts needed(which depend on your usage of your plan), doing the research, and then making notes for each section.

Like I said, it really depends on what you want to use your business plan for. If you are trying to get a business loan or have someone invest in your company, then a formal business plan is needed. If it's just you, then some semi-formal notes kept in the same document arranged in some manner should be fine. Always date your business plan and NEVER overwrite it. If you make changes(and you should as time goes one), put a new date on it and save it as a new file(I like to use the date IN the filename as well)

If you feel you still need a formal business plan, take those notes you've scribbled down and make a FREE appointment with your local SBA and they can help you out. You can also contact your local SCORE (www.score.org) office and they can help as well. (Springfield SCORE:
http://www.scorechapter61.org)

good luck
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Allen Murabayashi, Photographer
New York | NY | USA | Posted: 1:36 AM on 09.20.04
->> dianna,

is the business plan for someone other than you? the point of the business plan is to simply create an economic justification for a (solvent) business. you want to articulate your idea, create realistic expense and income lines, and articulate how the business will grow. if you aren't showing it to another party (for financing, for example) then i wouldn't sweat trying to make it read like a prospectus.

pre-packaged templates are wonderful in that they allow you to plug in data, and they remove the guess work out of trying to figure out all your expense categories.

assuming you are creating a photo business, and you are strapped for cash, you can easily create a business plan in excel. just create your expense and income columns. determine your cash flow -- this is probably the toughest part to manage of a business because payment is typically deferred relative to your expenses.

business plans are assumptions. you can tweak it as you get real-life data, so that it becomes more accurate. cost containment would be something to strive for, but maybe you'll have some nice revenue surprises along the way.

holler if you have more questions. good luck
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 1:45 AM on 09.20.04
->> Dianna
If you read a post I left on SS.com about business plans the other day you already know what I said, but I'll recap the recap.

A business plan forces you to answer some questions that are very basic and yet, very important:

I looked at the outline of business plan builder from Palo Altp. I've never used it, but let me suggest you keep it simple. Skip the "Pro Series" one.

Look and see if someone is selling a used one on ebay for cheap or if you're still in school, if someone has one there.

I'd also suggest if you're still in school that you head over to the Business School and see if there's someone there who can act as a advisor. If not, contact someone in your local SCORE chapter (these are retired executives who act as counselors) or small business incubator who can walk you thru the process.

Most of the software I've seen is targeted at businesses that are looking for venture capital etc... stuff you don't need.......yet.

Hope this helps. Contact me if you need some more info offline.
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Dianna Russell, Photographer
Springfield | MO | USA | Posted: 5:21 AM on 09.20.04
->> Thanks so much for the suggestions. I was hoping to get some ideas on how to do this *without* spending money on more software.

I have aging equipment – a Nikon D1 classic that I bought used two years ago and only a film camera for a backup. I had problems last weekend nailing some football shots that should have been tack sharp. I thought I had several decent photos but I found out differently as I edited my take. There were way too many back focused and just plain soft images. In part because of pool equipment (I don’t have my own 300 yet.) Needless to say I know I have to do something.

I’ve spent this weekend studying our sponsor’s websites and the classified ads. After writing down equipment model numbers and prices, I came up with three different scenarios: switching to Canon and buying all new stuff including basic lighting gear, staying with Nikon and buying select equipment (the D2H and the Nikkor 200-400 VR lens—instead of both a 300 and a 400) and finally, staying with Nikon and buying used equipment to replace what needs to be replaced. All three have pluses and minuses. All three are expensive but are within a few thousand of my first guess before adding up all the figures.

At any rate, unless I suddenly win the lotto (highly unlikely) or I find the tree that sprouts 100’s and 50’s, then I will probably need a bit of help getting this off the ground. So, I need to figure out how to write a business plan and see if I can find some grant money or some kind of help.

Brian,
That Springfield Score link is awesome and will undoubtedly be very helpful. I will contact them and set up an appointment. I didn’t even know about Score.

Allen,
I would like to know more about the Excel plan that you mentioned. I have Excel but haven’t used it much. Maybe, it’s time I did.

Michael,
Sorry, but I not only missed your post, but I missed it in my archive search as well. :o| A retired business counselor sounds like just what I need and I will check it out.

I know this isn’t going to happen overnight or nearly as quickly as I’d like but, I am not going to give up. Unfortunately, I need the equipment to make money and I need money to get the equipment. Hmmm.

Thanks again, guys.

Dianna
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Dianna Russell, Photographer
Springfield | MO | USA | Posted: 5:23 AM on 09.20.04
->> Oh, yes. Does anyone know if there are any VA programs for veterans? Maybe a program for Women Vets?

Thanks.

Dianna
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Ed Woo, Photographer
Long Beach | CA | USA | Posted: 8:39 AM on 09.20.04
->> I have a business plan guide file in Appleworks or Doc formats. Some questions might not apply depending on the situation. The guide is a good starting point. I don't remember where I got it from. I can email you a copy but it will probably be later this evening.
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Richard Orr, Photographer
Longmeadow | MA | USA | Posted: 8:40 AM on 09.20.04
->> Dianna,

The Small Business administration has a pretty good outline on their web site. They also have a pretty good small business kit that outlines a lot of the common issues.

The best part, it's free.
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Ed Woo, Photographer
Long Beach | CA | USA | Posted: 9:08 AM on 09.20.04
->> Here's the SBA link to sample business plans. There's one for a pet photographer.

http://www.bplans.com/samples/sba.cfm?affiliate=sba
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Sean Harding, Photographer, Assistant
Seattle | WA | USA | Posted: 9:17 AM on 09.20.04
->> The _ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography_ book also has a section on business plans. It's a good book to have.
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John Kavouris, Photographer
Bartlett | IL | US | Posted: 9:29 AM on 09.20.04
->> One thing I found out owning my own business is that business plans are like amoebae... they are constantly changing shape as the business and business conditions change. I'd suggest reading some of the plans on the SBA website and in books to see the kind of information they contain and then writing your own from scratch. You'll learn a lot and it will be more useful to you than a pre-packaged version.

One important thing to consider is what the plan is for. If it is just for your reference or to test an idea, all you may need is a financial spreadsheet. If you are trying to raise capital or get investors it need to be a lot more detailed. And if you plan to present it to a bank for financing, remember this: you can have the best business plan in the world but a bank is still going to want a personal financial gaurantee. They'll only help you if you can prove you don't need the help.

Good luck! Call me if I can help.
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Douglas Jones, Photographer
Olathe | KS | USA | Posted: 10:58 AM on 09.20.04
->> Dianna,

Coincidentally, I was researching the same thing this past week, and found the link below at the VA site.

http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/vre/info_for_vet.htm
http://www.vetbiz.gov/default2.htm

Hope this helps.

Doug
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Dianna Russell, Photographer
Springfield | MO | USA | Posted: 3:29 PM on 09.21.04
->> Richard,
Thanks for your post. I don’t know how I missed that, but I did and that will be very helpful.

Sean,
I’ll spend money a lot quicker on a reference book than I will on software. This is also listed in the sportsshooter bookshelf and I think I will pay the local Barnes and Noble or Borders stores a visit and take a closer look. Thanks.

Doug,
A good link to the VA

Thanks again everyone.

Dianna
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DJ Werner, Photographer
Beaufort | NC | USA | Posted: 4:35 PM on 09.22.04
->> not sure I see the connection between needing a business plan and going after grants?
they are 2 differamt animals...
perhaps you need grantwriting software? or books on grantwriting..which is an artform all unto it's own...


I've been in your situation... I have both nikon and canon, both old film bodies and newer digital stuff...
old glass and new...

see if you can trade up some of your old stuff for new or newer stuff?

yes there are plenty of things out there for vets...just hard to track em down....

consider- starting a non profit organization...
this allows for grant funding as well as fundraising...
but a non profit can be a full time job all it's own
hard to get grant money for equipment....might be better to try locating start up capital type or grant funding for women entepenuers...

are you in a rural area?
there might be a program for rural enterprises or something..to create jobs in your area..check at the local community college for this/or score....or chamber of commerce....

sometimes you have to take another job to raise the funds...
to buy the gear you need..not ideal but it works...
Donna
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Emily Borowski, Photographer, Assistant
South Bend | IN | USA | Posted: 7:51 PM on 09.26.04
->> Hi Dianna,

You may want to check with local colleges for assistance. I just completed a course for my MBA where we did a feasibility study and a business plan, absolutely free, for a local entrepreneur.

I still have notes, etc. and you're welcome to copies of them. I'll contact you offline for arrangements if you're interested.
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Ian L. Sitren, Photographer
Santa Ana | CA | USA | Posted: 8:24 AM on 09.27.04
->> I vaguely recall that there is a template in Microsoft Office, however perhaps not in all versions. You could also check the Microsoft Office website for templates. They are free.
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Dianna Russell, Photographer
Springfield | MO | USA | Posted: 5:57 PM on 09.27.04
->> Thanks for the additional comments and suggestions. Emily that is very generous, thank you.
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Thread Title: Writing a Business Plan . . . help and suggestions
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