Showing all articles tagged: communications



Seven C's of Effective Communications

  1. Clear: Make the goal of your message clear to your recipient. Ask yourself what the purpose of your communication is.
  2. Concise: Your message should also be brief and to the point. Why communicate your message in six sentences when you can do it in three?
  3. Concrete: Ensure your message has important details and facts, but that nothing deters the focus of your message.
  4. Correct: Make sure what you're writing or saying is accurate. Bad information doesn't help anybody. Also make sure that your message is typo free.
  5. Coherent: Does your message make sense? Check to see that all of your points are relevant and that everything is consistent with the tone and flow or your text.
  6. Complete: Your message is complete when all relevant information is included in an understandable manner and there is a clear "call to action". Does your audience know what you want them to do?
  7. Courteous: Ensure that your communication is friendly, open, and honest, regardless of what the message is about. Be empathetic and avoid passive-aggressive tones.

[2.04]

How to Write an Operations Manual

Operating a company without a formal set of rules and regulations is similar to sailing across the ocean without navigational charts. Rarely can objectives be reached in either case without an operations manual that explains "how to do". If your business seems to be sailing along without an operations manual, why take the time to compile one: Because there are at least eight ways it can benefit you and your company.

An operations manual...
  1. Establishes a comprehensive source of company policies and procedures
  2. Facilitates even-handed, consistent administration of personnel policies
  3. Promotes continuity in management style throughout the organization
  4. Helps identify problems before they arise, minimizing "crisis management"
  5. Reduces the number of emotional decisions, encouraging a businesslike climate of objectivity
  6. Defines authority clearly and distributes responsibility
  7. Becomes a training tool for employees
  8. Offers examples of standard forms, reducing the number and variety of forms used.
In any growing company, no one has the time for an extra project such as creating an operations manual. Top management must personally endorse the project and provide leadership to keep it moving. Establish deadlines and designate a "doer" in your company to get the job done.

Gather all existing procedures, systems, and forms. Talk to all levels of management and staff to get their ideas. Discuss the manual with field employees to ensure that all actual day-to-day working needs will be covered. Input from former staffers can be valuable, too. Concurrently, prepare a checklist of points that should be covered in your company's operations manual.

Consider these eleven basic sections:
  1. Introduction: Purpose of the manual; how the company started; business objectives and philosophy; description of products and services; economics of your business.
  2. Organizational chart: Who reports to whom; job descriptions; addresses of company's facilities; importance of each department and division.
  3. General employee information: Attitude toward customers, suppliers, and other employees; statement on how to handle telephone callers and visitors; housekeeping policies.
  4. Personnel administration: Hiring practices; employment forms; when and how workers are paid; outside employment; reprimands; hours of operation; coffee breaks and lunch hours; dress code; personal behavior; frequency of salary reviews; advancement opportunities; benefits paid by the company; contributory benefits; explanation of payroll deductions; labor laws; use of time cards, scheduling; overtime; vacation entitlement and holidays.
  5. Products and services: Customer relations; supplier relations; sales procedures; taking pride in what the company does.
  6. Operational procedures, processes, methods, and models: Flowcharts, process documentation, detailed directions and procedures for each department. This detailed documentation may not necessarily be part of the “master" manual but instead may be subdivided into appropriate sections which reside in detailed department manuals.
  7. Traceability and sustainability: Administrative procedures; ensuring accountability; billings; sample of each form; purpose of each document; routing flowchart for paperwork; summary of deadlines and due dates.
  8. Safety and security: Protection of physical premises; personal security; statement about protection of company assets; importance of safety to the employee and the company; handling of confidential information.
  9. Emergencies: How to handle accidents; what to do in case of fire, power failures, robberies and thefts’ emergency telephone numbers.
  10. Maintenance and repair: Telephones; service people; who should authorize repairs; trash removal; key control; handling of equipment; property damage or loss.
  11. Legal, moral, and ethical: Compliance with local, state, and federal laws; handling of regulatory agencies; inspections; record keeping requirements; maintaining ethical standards.
Once you have pinned down what you want to say, how should you say it? Convey the meaning briefly and clearly. Remember that the message is for the benefit of the readers—your employees. Too often, company documents are written either pretentiously (to enhance the stature of the writer) or ambiguously (to protect the writer should a question arise).

Don't fail to put certain procedures in writing just because it seems impossible to cover every eventuality; additions and revisions are inevitable.

Here are several tips on writing the manual:
  1. Present instructions in a logical order.
  2. Be specific. State exceptions if those exceptions have occurred frequently in the past.
  3. Use language and examples that are common to your company's employees.
  4. Adopt nonsexist language (for example: salesman becomes sales representative or salesperson, watchman becomes guard).
  5. Have a qualified outsider (preferably an educator or professional editor) do the editing.
  6. A loose-leaf, three-ring format or electronic equivalent permits great flexibility in using, reviewing, and updating material. "Sections" should correspond to chapters of a book. Within each section, the material should be in outline form.
  7. Do not use a "Miscellaneous" section. It becomes a catchall revealing less-than-thorough categorization.
  8. Each page should contain the section title, the date the page was issued, and a page number. This simplifies both the task of keeping the manual updated and the distribution of new or revised material.
  9. To complete the manual, prepare a thoroughly cross-referenced index to topics covered.
  10. A chain of command should be established to make revisions, and one person in top management should approve all proposals for change. Otherwise, duplication and overlap will create confusion.
  11. Finally, your operations manual should be reviewed at least once a year because, by its very nature, a growing company creates change.
[From Kenneth R. Chane, edited by Jim Jindrick]
1.06

How to Pick a Name for Your Venture

From the Wall Street Journal ...

There isn't a one-stop place to find out whether a business name is already in use, so it requires some checking around. A good start is a thorough Internet search ... If you do come across another business using the name, there are a couple questions to ask: Is the business in the same industry as yours? Is it operating nationally or solely in its local area? Would prospective customers confuse your business with the other business?

Under federal trademark law, a business can claim rights to a name if it's first to use a name in a particular category of business in the geographic area it serves. So you want to determine whether another business in your industry is using the same name in the same geographic region you are. A business still has rights to the name if it is using the name publicly -- even if it hasn't officially registered it for trademark protection.

The next step is to go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Web site, www.uspto.gov, to see whether another business has officially registered the name for federal trademark protection. Click on "Trademarks" on the left navigation bar. Then click on "Search TM database" on the left to access the trademark search database.

If another business has registered the name, you're typically restricted from using it only if that business is registered in the same category of business as yours or sells the same goods and services. If the businesses are totally different -- say, you're a bakery and the other business using your chosen name is a florist -- then it probably isn't a problem.

But you do want to ensure that your business name won't be confused with another business in your area ... the last thing you want is your potential customers to be confused ... and end up having to change the name.

Some businesses register trademarks only in their state, so check with your state's trademark authority as well. Many states have online databases. You also can hire a naming consultant or a trademark attorney to conduct an exhaustive name search.

Another issue: Make sure there's a domain name available that closely matches the name for your company, since that will be important if you want your business to have a Web presence.

[Jim's 2 cents: I suggest PowerPipe.com to check domains and to register yours. They do offer optional services but also make it easy to “point" your name to a different web most service, et al.]

=====

Jim’s checklist for picking a name ...

Picking a name for a new venture, product or service is not easy. Picking the wrong name could prove disastrous; the right name (brand) could add many sales dollars. The following checklist should help. However, it is unlikely that any name will meet all these criteria, and there have been many successful names that met but a few. Good luck!
  1. Is the name distinctive?
  2. Is the name instantly recognized?
  3. Is the name easy to remember?
  4. Is the name pleasant to see?
  5. Is the name pleasant to say?
  6. Is the name easy to spell?
  7. Is the name itself confusing?
  8. Is the name easily confused with other names?
  9. Is there a connection between the name and the product, service, or business venture it represents?
  10. Does the name suggest what the business venture, product, or service does?
  11. Is the name descriptive of the benefits offered by the product, service, or business venture?
  12. Does the name convey the proper image?
  13. Does the name fit customers' expectations?
  14. Does the name reinforce customer expectations?
  15. Are there any negative connotations with the name
  16. Is the name limiting?
  17. Does the name coordinate with other names used in the organization?
  18. Does the name work in all target markets?
  19. Can the name be legally protected?


1.10

The Lawyers Want to See This on the Cover of a Business Plan!

Confidentiality Notice: This Business Plan is confidential and contains proprietary information and intellectual property of NEWCO. Neither this Business Plan nor any of the information contained herein may be reproduced or disclosed under any circumstances without the express written permission of NEWCO. This Business Plan does not constitute an offer to sell or solicitation of an offer to buy securities of NEWCO. Any such offers and sales will be made only to “Accredited Investors," as defined in Regulation D under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, pursuant to separate agreements to be negotiated by the parties.

© 2011 by NEWCO. All rights reserved. Confidential.

[NEWCO is the example business venture.]

Plan ... How to Write an Effective Business Plan

  1. Start with a clear, concise executive summary of your business. Think of it like an elevator pitch. In no more than two pages, billboard all the important stuff. At the top, communicate your value proposition: what your company does, how it will make money and why customers will want to pay for your product or service. If you are sending your plan to investors, include the amount of money you need and how you plan to use it. You have to know the whole picture before you can boil things down, so tackle the summary after finishing the rest of your plan.
  2. Next, establish the market opportunity. Answer questions like: How large is your target market? How fast is it growing? Where are the opportunities and threats, and how will you deal with them? Again, highlight your value proposition. Most of this market information can be found through industry associations, chambers of commerce, census data or even from other business owners. (Be sure to source all of your information in case you are asked to back up your claims or need to update your business plan.)
  3. While you may have convinced yourself that your product or service is unique, don't fall into that trap. Instead, get real and size up the competition: Who are they? What do they sell? How much market share do they have? Why will customers choose your product or service instead of theirs? What are the barriers to entry? Remember to include indirect competitors--those with similar capabilities that currently cater to a different market but could choose to challenge you down the road.
  4. Now that you've established your idea, start addressing the execution ... specifically, your team. Include profiles of each of your business's founders, partners or officers and what kinds of skills, qualifications and accomplishments they bring to the table. (Include resumes in an appendix.)
  5. If potential investors have read this far, it's time to give them the nuts and bolts of your business model. This includes a detailed description of all revenue streams (product sales, advertising, services, licensing) and the company's cost structure (salaries, rent, inventory, maintenance). Be sure to list all assumptions and provide a justification for them. Also, include names of key suppliers or distribution partners.
  6. After all of that, one big question still remains: Exactly how much money does your business stand to make? More important, when will the cash come in the door? That's why you need a section containing past financial performance (if your company is a going concern) and financial projections.
  7. Three-year forward-looking profit-and-loss, balance sheet and cash-flow statements are a must ... as is a break-even analysis that shows how much revenue you need to cover your initial investment. [Jim 2 cents: make clear these are objectives for your venture, not just "projections" of what might happen!]
  8. For early stage companies with only so much in the bank, the cash-flow statement comparing quarterly receivables to payables is most critical. "Everyone misunderstands cash flow," says Tim Berry, president of business-plan software company Palo Alto Software. "People think that if they plan for [accounting] profits, they'll have cash flow. But many companies that go under are profitable when they die, because profits aren't cash."
  9. After you've buffed your plan to a shine, don't file it away to gather dust. "A business plan is the beginning of a process," says Berry. "Planning is like steering, and steering means constantly correcting errors. The plan itself holds just a piece of the value; it's the going back and seeing where you were wrong and why that matters."

[From Mary Crane, Forbes.com]
1.08

How We're Going to Write Our Executive Summary ...

The purpose of the executive summary of the business plan is to provide our readers with an overview of the business plan. Think of it as an introduction to our business. Therefore, our business plan's executive summary will include summaries of ...
  1. a description of our company, including our product and/or service and/or methodology solutions
  2. our management team
  3. the market and our customers including basic quantitative information
  4. marketing and sales strategies
  5. our primary competition
  6. our competitive advantage
  7. our operational strategies
  8. financial projections and plans
  9. why this is a winning business
  10. contact information
The executive summary will end with a summary statement, a "last kick at the can" sentence or two designed to persuade the readers of our business plan that our business is a winner.

To write the executive summary of the business plan, we will start by following the list above and writing one to three sentences about each topic. (No more!)

If we have trouble crafting these summary sentences from scratch, we will review our business plan to get us going. In fact, one approach to writing the executive summary of the business plan is to take a summary sentence or two from each of the business plan sections we've already written. (If we compare the list above to the sections outlined in the Business Plan Outline, we'll see that this could work very well.)

Then we'll finish our business plan's executive summary with a clinching closing sentence or two that answers the reader's question "Why is this a winning business?"

Tips for Writing the Business Plan's Executive Summary
  1. Focus on providing a summary. The business plan itself will provide the details and whether bank managers or investors, the readers of your business plan don't want to have their time wasted.
  2. Keep our language strong and positive. Don't weaken the executive summary of our business plan with weak language. Instead of writing, "Dogstar Industries might be in an excellent position to win government contracts", write "Dogstar Industries will be in an excellent position..."
  3. The executive summary should be no more than two pages long ... one page is probably better. Resist the tempation to pad your business plan's executive summary with details (or pleas). The job of the executive summary is to present the facts and entice your reader to read the rest of the business plan, not tell him everything.
  4. Polish our executive summary. Read it aloud. Does it flow or does it sound choppy? Is it clear and succinct? Once it sounds good to you, have someone else who knows nothing about your business read it and make suggestions for improvement.
  5. Tailor the executive summary of our business plan to our audience. If the purpose of our business plan is to entice investors, for instance, our executive summary should focus on the opportunity our business provides investors and why the opportunity is special.
  6. We should put ourselves in our readers' place... and read our executive summary again. Does this executive summary generate interest or excitement in the reader? If not, why?
  7. Remember, the executive summary of the business plan will be the first thing the readers of the business plan read. If our executive summary is poorly written, it will also be the last, as they will set the rest of our business plan aside unread!

[Susan Ward with editing by Jim Jindrick]
1.08

What to Avoid in Your Business Plan and Presentation

  1. Form over substance. If it looks good but doesn't have a solid basis in fact and research, you might as well save your energy.
  2. Empty claims. If you say something is so, back it up in the next sentence with a statistic or fact or quote from a knowledgeable source that supports the claim.
  3. Rumors about the competition. If you know for sure one is going out of business you can allude to it, but avoid listing their weaknesses or hearsay. Stick to facts.
  4. Superlatives and strong adjectives. Words like major, incredible, amazing, outstanding, unbelievable, terrific, great, most, best, and fabulous don't have a place in a business plan. Avoid ``unique" unless you can demonstrate with facts that the product or service is truly ``one of a kind". Your opportunity is probably not unique.
  5. Long documents. Keep it under 25 pages total. Write whatever you want to write, but keep it at home. If they want details, they will ask.
  6. Over estimating on your financial projections. Sure you want to look good, but resist optimism here. Use half of what you think is reasonable. Better to underestimate than set expectations that aren't fulfilled.
  7. Overly optimistic time frames. Ask around or do research on the Internet. If it takes most companies 6-12 months to get up and running, that is what it will take yours. If you think it will take 3 months to develop your prototype, double it. You will face delays you don't know about yet--ones you can't control.
  8. Gimmicks. Serious investors want facts, not hype. They may eat the chocolate rose that accompanies the business plan for your new florist shop, but it won't make them any more interested in investing in the venture.
  9. Typos and misspelled words. Use your spell checker, hire an editor or have four people read the document from back to front, but get those errors out of there if you want to be taken seriously.
  10. Amateurish financial projections. Spend some money and get an accountant to do these for you. They'll help you think through the financial side of your venture, plus put them into a standard business format that a business person expects.

[Kaye Vivian]
1.04

Business Plan: Things to Avoid

  1. Form over substance. If it looks good but doesn't have a solid basis in fact and research, you might as well save your energy.
  2. Empty claims. If you say something is so, back it up in the next sentence with a statistic or fact or quote from a knowledgeable source that supports the claim.
  3. Rumors about the competition. If you know for sure one is going out of business you can allude to it, but avoid listing their weaknesses or hearsay. Stick to facts.
  4. Superlatives and strong adjectives. Words like major, incredible, amazing, outstanding, unbelievable, terrific, great, most, best, and fabulous don't have a place in a business plan. Avoid ``unique" unless you can demonstrate with facts that the product or service is truly ``one of a kind". Your opportunity is probably not unique.
  5. Long documents. Keep it under 25 pages total. Write whatever you want to write, but keep it at home. If they want details, they will ask.
  6. Over estimating on your financial projections. Sure you want to look good, but resist optimism here. Use half of what you think is reasonable. Better to underestimate than set expectations that aren't fulfilled.
  7. Overly optimistic time frames. Ask around or do research on the Internet. If it takes most companies 6-12 months to get up and running, that is what it will take yours. If you think it will take 3 months to develop your prototype, double it. You will face delays you don't know about yet--ones you can't control.
  8. Gimmicks. Serious investors want facts, not hype. They may eat the chocolate rose that accompanies the business plan for your new florist shop, but it won't make them any more interested in investing in the venture.
  9. Typos and misspelled words. Use your spell checker, hire an editor or have four people read the document from back to front, but get those errors out of there if you want to be taken seriously.
  10. Amateurish financial projections. Spend some money and get an accountant to do these for you. They'll help you think through the financial side of your venture, plus put them into a standard business format that a business person expects.

[From Kaye Vivian]

Jim Jindrick

You can send Jim Jindrick a message here: TextJim.VentureNotebook.com Jim's books are available here: Amazon.com/author/JimJindrick

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