Business Plan Reviews

I used to be involved in franchise sales and I reviewed countless business plans in that capacity to ensure that our potential franchisees understood not only what they were getting into but that they were properly capitalized so that they would have the best chance of success. I was recently asked about how to take a reality based approach to business planning.

- What sections are the most essential elements of the business plan?

 Income and expenses.  The main thing I would look for was whether the individual had allocated enough money for marketing purposes and whether or not their income and expenses looked realistic.

 - What story should the business plan tell?

Where does the money come from and how is the money going to be spent.  Everything else is fluff. Either the person understands how their proposed business makes money and what they need to do to realize that potential, or they don’t.

- What common business plan mistakes do you see the most?

Most people over-estimate their income and under-estimate their expenses. Business plans are a work of optimism. The problem is – they also need to be realistic. Understanding what is realistic is key.

- What is your advice for startups and entrepreneurs that are writing or refining their business plan for review?

Halve your income and double your expenses. 

- What is the most vital piece of information in the business plan? 

 How long until you realistically break even? Do you have enough capital to ensure that you can make it that far? Too often people over-estimate their income and under-estimate their expenses. Then, just as they are starting to gain traction, their money starts to run out so they cut expenses in the only place they can – which is their marketing. When that happens, they tend to die a slow death.   Understanding, realistically, what has to be invested and how long until you see a realistic return at your break even point – will help you avoid this fate.

- What is your #1 business plan advice?

Halve your income and double your expenses. If you still want to do this with your worst-case scenario numbers, take the leap.

- Anything else that you'd like to add - that relates to the composition of a business plan? 

Make sure you understand your motives for starting a business. Why is it you are doing this?  Without truly understanding your own motivations, you may not have the stick to-it-ness that will help you keep going when things get tough. And… they are going to get tough.

The best motivations are working to help other people. If all you want to do is make money, then you probably won’t stick it out when the going gets tough. If you want to help people, nothing will stop you.

To learn more about how to make better more realistic decisions, take my online course; Reality Based Decision Making for Effective Strategy Development.

If you want to learn more about humanistic management – take the short self-study problem – Principles of Humanistic Management

Confronting Lies

I’m afraid that this may be one of those – do as I say, not as I do posts.  I know what I should be doing ideally, but I don’t always do it. That’s ok. This is practice, not perfection, thought that shouldn’t be an excuse to not try and correct our bad behavior in the future.

For me, there is nothing quite so infuriating as a lie. I suppose I lead a sheltered life if this is my main beef with the world, but hear me out.  I am all about reality based problem solving.  Lies prevent reality based problem solving. They interfere.  Think of it as a form of verbal bullying designed to get people to take courses of action that will not only not work, but may cause harm.

Why would people do this?  Because they either don’t know what they are saying is not true, or … they have something to gain from the lie.

There are a couple of different ways to think aboiut how we deal with lying.

One is behavioral. Lying is a behavior and can be modified with behavioral modification techniques. In politics, there is a WHOLE LOT of misinformation being spread by otherwise normal caring people who have no idea that they were lied to or that the post they just shared is a lie or is based on a lie. These people have been conditioned to do this and can be conditioned to stop. The key is to remove the reward by letting them know – this isn’t true.   Yes, when you do this – people retreat. But they also come back. The retreat and the re-entrenchment is what happens when a reward is not received for some behavior. Just be patient and allow them to come back for more. Eventually – they may even start to trust you. 
Am I good at this?  Depends on the lie that is being told to me. I gotta be honest, lies that are told by white nationalists, because they involve denying and erasing people from the public sphere are so horrendous to me that I have zero patience and sometimes – lose it. But I keep reminding myself to try and be calmer the next time.

Another possibility is that the person is lying because they are pathological about it. Lying has become so much of a habit that like any habit – they can’t break it. You can’t get them to stop, your goal should instead be to make sure people listening, understand it’s a lie. Challenging them won’t change them, but it may help others avoid falling prey.

The final category is people who lie strategically for gain. These are the hardest to deal with because most of what they say is true so you won’t notice the lie slipping through. These require skepticism and doubt. 

Which brings me to the technique – doubt. Skepticism. When someone tells a lie calling them out as a liar is ok. Especially if it is a bald face lie. But for people who don’t know they are lying, you need to get them to doubt and you do that – not by calling them a liar- but in letting them know you are highly skeptical and doubtful that what they just shared is true.

Is this easy to do in the moment when you are confronted by obvious lies? No. But we have to start somewhere.

Learning Socratic Jujitsu can help - the online course is only $15

Conflicts and Compromise

Conflicts happen. The challenge is knowing how to deal with them effectively, knowing when to compromise and when to hold your ground.

I teach how to use behavioral techniques to diffuse conflicts and deal with harassment and retaliation.  I also teach a class on why conflict management doesn’t work when the problem is bullying.  Finally, I also have a course on how to win arguments by not arguing – called – Socratic Jujitsu.  All of these programs are science based.

Let’s assume we are dealing with a conflict that is based on a real disagreement and not with something that is actually irrational and happening because people have implicit biases that are effecting how they are interacting with others.

1)      As long as a disagreement is professional, it can be resolved.  If the disagreement is manifesting as unprofessional behavior, it can’t be. Sniping, name calling, passive aggressive behavior, interrupting, denigrating comments and more – are all unprofessional. If that is happening, what is happening, isn’t just a disagreement and those other behaviors have to be addressed before conflict resolution can occur.

2)      The key to conflict resolution is respect. Both parties must get to a point where they step back and respect that the other person is holding their other opinion for a valid reason and that once we know what that is – we can work through the differences.  Assuming there is an actual disagreement on the best way to move forward, one side can take the initiative to start asking questions so that cooperative problem solving can occur.

When should you give up? That depends. Do you feel like this is mission critical? Or not. If not – then perhaps just lodging your disagreement and then allowing whatever to go forward will be fine. Who knows, you may have been wrong and the other person may have been right. But if you are absolutely convinced this is a mission critical issue and that the project will fail if something isn’t addressed, then fight for it. Just be aware, the best way to do that is to ask questions that introduce doubt into the mind of the person you are disagreeing with.  The goal is to move from conflict to cooperative problem solving.

Want to learn more- check out these online courses:

Humanist Marriage

Respect and Problem Solving inside marriage

I am obviously a Humanist. My husband identifies as a Humanist too. We have been married for 17 years now. Still happily married. What is the secret to our success. Respect and problem solving.

I truly respect my husband. He is a wonderful person. Creative, caring, compassionate, responsible, kind, intelligent, interesting and supportive.   It is very easy to forget all that when we are problem solving though.

Marriage is a partnership. The two people work together to secure food and housing and health care and if they have kids, to help raise and take care of and support the individuals in their family unit – however that is defined and however extended that family unit is.

This is a long winded way of saying – marriages require a lot of problem solving. All the time.  Sometimes, we have disagreements on how best to solve our problems. Sometimes those disagreements are minor – like what color to paint the walls. Other times they are more pressing, like who is going to take out the trash or make sure the kid is picked up from whatever activity they are at.

Respect for the other person as a fully functional intelligent human being, helps us navigate those disagreements so that we engage in cooperative problem solving and don’t devolve into arguments.  People are often astonished that my husband and I rarely argue.  It happens every once in a while. But mostly, we just enter problem solving mode and respect each other’s ideas and suggestions. I guess that’s what comes with being married for 17+ years.

What I am sure of is that IF I didn’t respect him enough to value his opinion, he would have lost respect for me ages ago. Respect and problem solving – lead to a happy marriage. In my case anyway.

Learn more about how to integrate compassion and your coping skills so that you improve your interpersonal relationships with Living Made Simpler - the course

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