This book sub-titled The straightforward Business Planning Guide is focused on encouraging people to take the step and start their own businesses. In the books introduction, Dr. Vanity, the author, lets us know that her goal with this book is to make the process of starting a business easier for us. Specifically, she writes that:
In this straightforward business planning book, I simplify, organize, and sort out business planning for you so you can clearly see the path that leads to a successful, profitable business of your own. As someone who is a business scholar-practitioner and has been involved in starting and operating new businesses across several different industries, I look forward to imparting my knowledge to you.
This is not a big book. It has just 44 pages and 7 chapters. You can read through it in one sitting. Following is a brief review of each chapter.
CHAPTER 1 – WHAT’S HOLDING YOU BACK?
In this chapter Dr Vanity explores two factors that hold people back from starting their own businesses. These factors are reviewed as follows;
- Fear of taking risks: people are scared of taking risks because they want to control the outcome of things which is not possible in a business. The truth is nothing we do is without risks. Not even a job is without risks and changes can make a seemingly secure job disappear.
Any safety you have in your current situation is likely an illusion. The truth is, as a business owner, you won’t be any less secure than an employee. The only security comes from you and what you are willing to do and the risks you are willing to take. The bottom line is that there is no such thing as safe, and if you are like most people, you have likely never enjoyed much of a safety net anyway.
- Fear of failure: this is another fear that prevents people from starting businesses. We are bothered about what people will say if we fail.
Failure can seem like the worst of possibilities. We think of the unbearable embarrassment, and the agony of loss. But let’s also be honest, fear of failure is often rooted in pride. If we fail, everyone who doubted us will have been right. Here’s the thing. You can’t worry about what other people sitting on the sidelines will think if you fail. Don’t let that be the reason you don’t put yourself in the game.
A way to overcome the fear of starting a business is suggested which is to gain knowledge.
Learning can be a powerful antidote to fear. Research studies analyzing the fear of failure in entrepreneurship have found that one of the ways entrepreneurs overcome feelings of fear is through knowledge and information-seeking.
Dr. Vanity advices us to take time to learn to deal with our fears and believes that:
Through knowledge and information, it is possible that fear can motivate you rather than hinder you.
CHAPTER 2 – MINDSET IS EVERYTHING
If you are used to a comfortable job and a stable paycheck then opening a business requires a mindset change. According to Dr. Vanity:
Here’s the truth. Wealth can only come from value that you add or products and services that you create. This is true whether you’re working for a company or as a business owner. This is why mindset, entrepreneurial mindset specifically, is everything for the successful business owner.
She also writes that:
An entrepreneurial mindset is a way of thinking that enables you to continually improve yourself and your business, take action on your ideas, and learn from (rather than be defeated by) mistakes. Anyone willing to do the work can develop an entrepreneurial mindset.
So how can you develop an entrepreneurial mindset? Here are some suggestions from Dr. Vanity:
- Obsession for improvement: develop an obsession for personal development. Even in small bits personal development will change the way you think about things.
There is a direct connection between how successful you are in business and your personal state of mind. Everything you do, including how you run your business, is an extension of who you are. This is why making a commitment to personal self-improvement is so important and will undoubtedly influence your ability to start, grow, and scale your business.
- Brainwash your subsconscious: surround yourself with people doing the kinds of things you want to do. If you can’t do it physically by reading books and listen to messages about such people and let them influence your mindset.
It is possible that you don’t have all the qualities of an entrepreneur yet, but you can start thinking and acting like one. Be a self-starter, be open-minded, and a problem-solver. Be deliberate about doing this repeatedly, and you will see your thoughts crystallize into who you are becoming – your best self.
CHAPTER 3 – WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT THIS BOOK
This chapter passes on a very important message and it is that, you should not follow your passion when it comes to starting a business. Here’s how Dr. Vanity puts is:
I’m going to share something with you that’s probably going to shock you. But it needs to be said prior to business planning, because this will probably change everything for you. You would probably be better served by not following your passion.
She lists three reasons for saying this:
- The wrong assumption that our passions and interests are fixed instead of fluid and evolving.
- The assumption that we all have a passion in the first place.
- The assumption that you can start a business and make a living from the things we are passionate about.
She states that:
Consider, then, changing the way you think about “doing what you love.” Consider developing a passion, or passions, based on the unmet or unsatisfied needs of the market. Meeting the demands of the market is where passion can really come into play for the successful business owner, not necessarily in the product or the service.
She challenges us to have an open mind about starting a business and not fixating on passion. She also writes that:
Ask yourself: What business can I start to be a solution or to fill an unmet or unsatisfied need in the market?”
CHAPTER 4 – CHOOSING THE RIGHT BUSINESS
This chapter is about getting us to think about the kind of business we can start. She writes that:
…I suggest you explore opportunities that meet your comfort zone, give you the freedom to spend time with your family, and at the same time, stack the odds of success in your favour by catering to a problem or meeting a need that a large percentage of people are known to experience.”
She goes on to describe three business ideas that we can start, which are:
- A cleaning service
- A good truck
She makes it clear that she didn’t describe those three businesses to suggest we should start any of them but to encourage us to use an open-minded approach to select a viable business idea to pursue.
Towards the ending of the chapter she describes two businesses that she started. One was a vocational school for allied health programmes and the other a biometric finger printing businesses. She makes it clear that she didn’t have any prior experiences in any of the sectors that these businesses operate in but rather she spotted a need, did her research and launched these businesses.
CHAPTER 5 – BRANDING AND MARKETING
In this chapter Dr. Vanity jumps straight into branding and marketing and she discusses the usual stuff you would associate with branding and marketing. What she writes about here includes:
- The image of your business which covers things such as your logo, colours, fonts, website design, content, tag line and advertising.
- Defining your branding answering the questions, what does my business do? What are the benefits and features of my product and service? What qualities do I want to be associated with my business?
- Various aspects of marketing which include marketing materials such as cards, brochures and signage. A website which should be simple and easy for visitors to use. Using social media sites to get the message about your business on.
Other aspects discussed about marketing are the importance of:
- Creating a listing for your business on Google.
- Create local awareness for your business and establish a network by joining business association and community groups to meet new contacts.
- Craft an elevator pitch that can allow you to deliver a short compelling speech anytime.
CHAPTER 6 – OWNERSHIP
Another recognisable topic in lots of business books, this chapter deals with business ownership structure. So what kind of legal entity do you want to set up your business to be? The legal structures discussed are:
- Sole proprietorship: once you start transacting any business, you are a sole proprietor. You don’t need to register it. With this type of business entity, the owner is personally liable for all financial obligations of the business.
- Corporation: This needs registration and is usually formed by shareholders. It is more complex than other business entities and requires more extensive record-keeping, operational processes, and reporting than any other business entity. It is a good structure to plan if you plan to raise money or later trade as a public corporation by selling shares.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): is a legal business entity formed by a member or members and is a hybrid entity that combines the characteristics of a corporation with those of a partnership or sole proprietorship. It is good for small businesses that don’t intend to sell shares and is a good entity to start a business.
The chapter ends with a question;
Ask yourself: What form of business entity will I establish for my business?
CHAPTER 7 – BUSINESS AND OPERATIONS PLAN
This is the largest chapter because it goes into considerable detail about what a business plan is and the components of a business plan. If you are interested in some quick learning about a business plan, this is a good chapter to read. Here is an overview of the aspects of a business plan discussed:
- Executive summary: this section presents a brief outline of the business’s purpose and objectives.
- Overview and objectives: discusses what the business will do, problems it will solve and for which customers.
- Products and services: what your products and services are, how you you will produce and provide them and costs of production.
- Market opportunities: mostly the results from market research, this area covers target market size, growth opportunities, potential demand and your uniqueness from the competition.
- Sales and marketing plan: how you will market and sell your products and services?
- Operations: how you will operate and run the business?
- Management team: who is in the team, what is their experience and what do they bring to the company, what will their duties and salary structure be?
- Financial analysis: a financial analysis of the business in the form of balance sheet, income statement, cashflow statement and budgets.
So why should you even bother to have a business plan. According to Dr. Vanity:
You’ll be able to explain your idea better. When you’re looking for business partners, vendors, or even your first employee, it can be hard to convince people of the merits of a business that doesn’t yet exist. A business plan can show people what you’re planning to do so they’ll have a better idea of whether they want to be involved.
Dr. Vanity ends the book by applauding those opting to start their own business. She encourages us to take the step and no believe in the comforts of the moment. She has outlined some steps in the book which she believes can make it relatively more straightforward to start a business