Wednesday, November 27, 2013

5 Tips for Starting a Business Plan

5 Tips for Starting a Business Plan


A friend of mine came to me recently, asking if there were some practical advice I could offer him for setting up a business plan. I’m glad that he recognized the value in having some kind of plan before throwing himself in head first. 

The following article discusses five major key points that need to be addressed that any great business plan should contain; whether you are planning a small town hair solon or a major installation of a new industrial complex.

1. First, I suggested he start with a clear vision and meaningful mission statement. What is the purpose for beginning this business? What do they hope to accomplish? A great mission statement should encourage and inspire action; it should really grab your audience’s attention like the first sentence of a great novel.

2. Next, my friend would need to provide a description of their product or service. A vision is all well and good, but it is worthless without a basic description of how they wish to accomplish their goal. Therefore, there must be a basic description for communicating their intentions to their audience (whether it is a potential business partner or an investor). Is it clear what you provide in the eyes of the customer?

3. Third, my friend should figure out how their product or service is different from others in the same industry. Differentiation is going to be one of the key factors in determining the potential success of the business. If you plan on bringing a similar product or service to market, it had better be different in one way or another. Are you improving upon a design? Are you providing a service more efficiently than your competitor, for example? My friend was unable to clearly communicate the answers to these questions yet. However, with some time to sit down and think about it, I’m confident that he’ll be able to come up with something now that he’s aware of the need for differentiation.

For the last two pieces of advice, I asked him to remember a couple acronyms. SWOT and SMART.
 
4. SWOT is a concept that challenges you to look at your businesses through the lens of potential strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. “Scan the environment for significant opportunities and threats facing the business. Opportunities are positive external options; threats are negative external forces” (Zimmerer, et al., 2008). You should be able to get at least a loose grasp on these four areas and include them in the business plan. It will show potential investors that you really understand your market and are aware of the challenges you may face.

5. SMART is the other important acronym. This has to do with setting goals with your business. Goals are incredibly important. So important, in fact, that I would be pretty concerned if someone approached me with a goalless business plan! Being SMART with your goals means that they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. For example, I had a goal for my Peaceful Parenting blog to obtain email subscribers. I made it SMART by stating (on paper) that I wanted to reach X subscribers by X date using X method. This gave me an opportunity to break it down into smaller pieces; and when included in a business plan, investors will see that you are no stranger to fine tuning your goals and creating deadlines for yourself.

I can only imagine that writing your first business plan can be incredibly overwhelming. It doesn’t necessarily have to be. Patrick Hull, a writer for Forbes.com explains, “If your product or service is not overly complex, your plan doesn’t have to be very lengthy. For example, a business plan for a hair salon is not going to look anything like a plan for a biotech research company” (Forbes) (Hull, 2013). They could start with an online search to find sample business plans. There are many that you can use as templates or guides for writing your own; almost in a color by number fashion. This takes the focus away from formatting and knowing what to include and puts it on the actual content of the plan. 

Resources:

Here are a few resources to get you started; all with free templates and sample business plans:
 

Daniel Wagner.

If you found this article useful, please share and let me know what you think!

References:
Hull, P. February 21, 2013. 10 Essential Business Plan Components. Forbes. Retrieved November 27, 2013 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickhull/2013/02/21/10-essential-business-plan-components/
Zimmerer, T.W., Scarborough, N.M. & Wilson, D. (2008). Essentials of entrepreneurship and small business management (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Interested in Entrepreneurship? I am!



There is certainly something to be said about the allure of beginning an entrepreneurial career. There’s the aspect of being in control, getting to control the direction of your company as well as take the blame for any mistakes. There is the idea of being your own boss and not having to report to anyone except your customers. If you miss a day of work, you do not have to worry about the ever-looming idea that you might get “written up” by your boss. 

For me, the largest motivators for becoming an entrepreneur is the idea that I can choose my own schedule. I have a large family and would love to spend more time with them. Currently, I am working third shift at a manufacturing plant, I sleep all day, and it is currently my only source of income. I plan on creating a series of websites, becoming location independent, and hope to fly toward a future in cereal entrepreneurship.

Now, I can imagine there might be some problems if an entrepreneur were to become obsessed with one of these rewards. They might come to discover that there isn’t nearly as much freedom with running your own business as they had imagined. They can risk becoming overworked and burnt out before they even start to turn a profit. Also, for many people who wish to become entrepreneurs will talk themselves out of even trying because a strong fear of failure keeps them pacified. In my case, I am prepared to invest large amounts of time in the front end of my web businesses with little to no pay off to have the chance at creating huge rewards later. A form of passive income, if you will.

Through a lot of personal development and self-knowledge, fear of failure is no longer an area of concern. In fact, I have learned to embrace failure as part of the process. Hey, I didn’t come out of the womb running, did I? It took practice and LOTS of failure. So far, I have had three websites that didn't work out. They were great ideas, but I didn't know what I was doing. I have learned since then how to build traffic, how to create better content, how to optimize my pages and posts for search engines (SEO). It's been a lot of work, and fun along the way. 

Have you ever had a business idea that was a total bomb?

Daniel Wagner.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cash for Clunkers? Was it a Success?




I do not think that Cash for Clunkers (properly known as Car Allowance Rebate System—or CARS) was a good approach to help decrease air pollution from mobile sources. In fact, the program ended up being a complete debacle, resulting in creating more waste than it was meant to save in the first place. 

The Automotive Recycler’s Association (ARA) suggests that “in addition to conserving natural resources, automotive recycling plays an important role in reducing air and water pollution, and solid waste generation” (2010). This would have been wonderful, except for one important fact. The cars that were collected from the CARS program were federally mandated to be shredded, rather than recycled. 
Where do you suppose the shredded material went to? That’s right, the landfill—Gasp! “For each ton of metal recovered by a shredding facility, roughly 500 pounds of shredder residue are produced, meaning about 3 to 4.5 million tons of shredder residue is sent to landfills every year” (Santisi, 2013).

http://blog.nj.com/jerseyblogs/2009/08/large_Cash_For_Clunkers.jpgNearly 100% of vehicles are able to be recycled. In fact, the engine itself takes the most amount of energy and resources to manufacture, so car companies reap both an environmental and cost benefit from being able to recycle engine parts” (Santisi, 2013). Therefore, companies that could have been repurposing those engines were instead having to use important resources to create brand new ones to keep up with the new market demand void that was left by the CARS program. 

Just like every other government program, the Cash for Clunkers deal was a complete failure. I would be extremely hesitant to suggest that the government should be involved in any other method for pursuing decreased air pollution from vehicles. I don’t believe that they can do a better job at environmental protection than the private market can.

For a very enlightening Fox Business News report in which Michael Wilson, executive vice president of the Automotive Recycler's Association discusses the impact 'Cash for Clunkers' has had on the environment, click here

Daniel Wagner.

References:

Automotive Recycler’s Association, 2010. The Role of the Automotive Recycling Industry. Retrieved October 31, 2013 from http://www.a-r-a.org/content.asp?contentid=435
Santisi, J. January 2, 2013. The Cash for Clunkers Conundrum: That Cash for Clunkers Program Was Not an Environmental Success Story. Retrieved October 31, 2013 from http://www.emagazine.com/blog/the-cash-for-clunkers-conundrum#sthash.EgYxTzp8.dpuf

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Top 5 Fears Keeping You from Succeeding

I don't think I've ever met a person who did not have a goal or a dream that they wished they could achieve. It's like our lifeblood, keeping us moving forward. But what happens to those who get left behind; stuck in an unfulfilled monotonous rut? Most might automatically assume it's money, time, or skills that provide that nagging roadblock, continuously keeping us from pursuing our goals. However, you might be surprised to discover that its more in our heads than we think. Today, I want to discuss some of the real reasons many goals never reach fruition.

1. Fear of Failure:


FailureFailure in and of itself is a necessity for survival! We all are born with this innate sense that we must keep trying if we wish to succeed. How many times did you fall over when you were trying to learn how to walk? Yeah, I don't know either, but I'm fairly certain that you didn't come crashing out of the womb with both legs marathon ready. We all have this great goal setting ability very early on in life. Do you have any idea how many times that stubborn ol' mule Edison had to fail before he successfully created a commercially viable light bulb? (The internet can't seem to agree on an exact amount, but they all agree that it was A LOT of times).

I can say one thing for certain: Never trying at all guarantees 100% chance that you will fail.

2. Fear of Being Different:


There seems to be this misconception that standing up above the crowd and being different is a bad thing. This fear of being different is crippling for people. People will even try to put you in your place when you are becoming too different from them. It's ok to be concerned with what others think of us; it's how we get our social proofs that we're on the right track. However,  you should not simply listen to what others think of you and take that as law. There needs to be an evaluation process so you can measure yourself against your own beliefs to determine how different to be. For example, if your goal is to dance in the street in mid day with no music, people might find you to be a bit crazy. But as long as it's not hurting anyone, who gives a crap??

3. Fear of Not Adding Up or Not Being Accepted:




What if I'm not good enough? This question plagues many of us and cripples us in such a way that we simply don't try. It's this concept that the experts will scoff at us and call us out. It's the idea that we will only disappoint people with our ideas and gifts; that they will not be worthy. My question is this: What makes them the experts? What committee was put in place that offered them some official title of 'most knowledgeable in their subject?' You have much more to offer the world. Perhaps it's in a different voice, from a different point of view, or from a slightly different angle. Perhaps your method for getting the information across to someone is more powerful or entertaining. There are so many ways to "add up" without feeling like you have to become an authority on a subject before you are allowed to speak.

4. Fear of the Unknown:


This is a big one... what kind of questions does this invoke for you? For me, it's a HUGE list of 'what if's.'

What if it doesn't work out? What if my website doesn't look good? What if new technology comes out that makes all this work invalid or obsolete? What if I don't know the answer to someone's question? What if these tutorial classes I signed up for end up being worthless?Gulliver

These are just a few examples I could come up with off the top of my head. Very real questions for me that I am dealing with individually. But, if I continue to let these questions eat away my drive to succeed, I'll never get anything done; I'll never achieve my career goals. The fear of the unknown can end up being the death of a dream if you let those nagging questions keep pulling you away from your objective. The scene from Gulliver's Travels comes to mind when the Lilliputians (small people who are about as big as one of Gulliver's fingers) tie him down and he ground with their tiny ropes; rendering him helpless.

Don't let the Lilliputians get you too!

5. Doubt:


Nobody gets inside our heads more than we do. The effects of self-doubt can cripple us, even to the point of never trying. The mental and physical toll it takes can be detrimental to our health and can affect our ability for goal setting. It certainly doesn't help that we always seem to have that little voice called doubt constantly nagging us--keeping us from achieving great things. For me, doubt is a cold combination of all fears combined into one. I believe it has been doubt that has kept me constantly going back and forth to work everyday in my 9 to 5 boring job. It has been doubt that has forced me into thinking that I am not good enough, or that people don't care what I have to say, or that my actions don't have an impact on anyone's life.

But I'm here to take back my life and banish doubt  from my vocabulary, and you can do the same. Typically, your doubts are ungrounded in reality and are simply constructs that you put up in front of yourself to obscure your vision of a brighter future.

Conclusion


Of this list of five fears, the main fear that I struggle with is the fear of not adding up. I always wonder, who in the world wants to hear what I have to say? I feel as though my words will not have an impact the way I hope they will. That I will be called out as a fraud or disingenuous or a phoney. But, I have decided to try anyway. I decided that I will write because it helps me clarify my goals. I will continue to do this because there's certainly at least one person who cares what I have to say, and that's enough for me.

Remember: Never trying at all guarantees 100% chance that you will fail. Overcoming fear is a great place to start.

So, what fears do you have that keep you from pursuing your goals?



Daniel Wagner.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Our Kids Will Never Have to Deal With These Gaming Problems Again!

Our Kids Will Never Have to Deal With These Gaming Problems Again!


I was talking to a friend--rather excitedly--about old school gaming problems that our children will never have to deal with. This was a very fun topic which brought back many memories. Now, to be clear, neither of us were children of the Atari--which I'm certain had its own host of issues--but we did share early memories and struggles associated with the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and beyond. Most of these items we have all had to experience if you've ever owned one of the old cartridge gaming systems. Our children are the future, and they will undoubtedly have their own gaming-related struggles that they will one day reminisce upon themselves. However, our children were lucky, because they will never:

  • Have to deal with blowing on a cartridge as a means to get it to operate properly. While blowing on the cartridge likely had little effect in 'actually' making the game operate correctly, that didn't stop mom from instructing us on the proper techniques for blowing and making sure we didn't spit into them. (No, I don't mean that mom taught us kids how to give blow jobs... ya perverts).

  • Have to devise creative methods for wedging a game to one side of the machine or another to get the picture to come in clear, such as folded up paper, cardboard, pencils, etc. Anything that would 'hold 'er steady' and achieve that perfect working angle.
  • Have to worry about misplacing a memory card (For all those post-NES systems) and having to start our game all over when we finally were able to afford to get a replacement card.
  • Have to see a three page itemized list of actions they should NOT do while game is saving. For example: Do not turn off power, do not unplug power cord, do not remove memory card, do not pass "Go," do not collect $200, do not talk, do not blink, and do not consider breathing.
  • Have to place their system in the middle of the living room floor so that they can sit on their couch due to to the wonderful invention that is wireless controllers. Deep down, we all knew that we were setting ourselves up for failure when we had the system power cord stretched from the television to the console, and our controllers stretched out from that, creating a twelve-foot trip hazard across the entire room. Inevitably, someone was GOING to trip over that cord, disconnect the power source, and piss us off cause we were just about to beat Mario 3!!!
These are just a few of the issues we had to deal with to get our games to cooperate with us. Nowadays, the biggest issues I worry about it that terrifying three letter word ...  Lag. It's the new number one reason people throw keyboards through flat screen monitors. lol

You remember the caveman days of gaming... Share some of your memories with us in the comment section below!

Daniel Wagner.
http://www.parentofprogress.com

Friday, May 3, 2013

Job Hunt Begins Before Graduation (Part 2)

Welcome to part two of the "Job Hunt Begins Before Graduation." 

In case you missed the first episode, the following is part two of my journey through "What Color is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers" by Richard N. Bolles (2013 edition). So far, I am progressing quite well in my self-actualization exercises recommended by Richard M. Bolles in his annual series "What Color is Your Parachute." It appears to be a multifaceted and well organized group of exercises designed to take a deeper look into what drives me as a person, and eventually will attempt to match me up with potential careers that will best bit these personality traits and preferences.

At the end of the self-actualization exercises there is a flower diagram that basically sums up the entire person you are onto a single well-organized sheet of paper. This diagram is used to prioritize all the information pulled from the data collected as each exercise is complete; each petal (and the center) representing seven ways of thinking about yourself. So far, I have completed three of the seven petals and I will briefly touch on each of these petals and the implications that occurred to me while filling them out.

Petal #1: My Favorite Knowledges or Fields of Interest
In this section, I was required to think back and take notes on different areas effected by my favorite mediums (mine were ideas, words, music, people, and graphics). It took quite some time for me to think back on all the categories and fill in each place with whatever knowledges I possessed about anything. Turns out I knew more than I remembered I knew, and I think you may find the same result as you break down these parts. The areas included:
  1. What I knew about these favorite mediums that enabled me to work more confidently in that medium.
  2. What I knew from previous jobs
  3. What I knew about outside of work
  4. What fields, careers, or industries (involving these mediums) sound interesting to me 
At the beginning of this exercise, I had decided that I would be left with many blank areas because there was not much that I know. As it turns out, I have picked up way more information in the past than I remembered at first glance. Taking a moment to break down and categorize each item helped tremendously in considering the details rather than the overall picture.

Petal #2: My Favorite Kinds of People to Work With
This petal was fun. I was supposed to think back on all the people I had to work with in the past that simply irritated the crap out of me or left a bad taste in my mouth. What were some of the personality characteristics that they possessed that rubbed me the wrong way. I don't want to mention any names here, although I probably should since they more than deserve it.
Sample of a Completed Flower

Once I broke down those fun adjectives, the next step was to figure out what the opposite of those were and put them into a prioritization chart (a very interesting piece of paper if I ever saw one). In this case, in order of importance to me, I'd prefer to work with people who are positive, honest, polite/professional, supportive, and think 'outside the box.'

Petal #3: What I can do and Love to Do (Favorite Transferable Skills)
The main reason it took so long to relay this next blog post was because of this petal. I place blame squarely on the shoulders of this task because it had multiple parts. To pick out what my seven favorite transferable skills were, the next step was to write seven stories about myself (to myself no less!) in which I had accomplished some task involving a goal, hurdles, and a description of what was done step-by-step, outcome/results, and any measurable/quantifiable statement of the outcome. Whew!

Some of these transferable skills included: Problem solving, planning, studying and observing, communicating, and analyzing. Pair those up with some favorite traits such as creative, unique, enthusiastic, and achievement-oriented, and you start to have a picture of the kind of person is represented on this flower.

In Closing
I still have four more petals to go before I begin the actual job hunt process. Fortunately, I still have time before my August 2014 graduation date to accomplish this goal; but I'd better get on it.

I'll be updating this story upon completion of the last four petals. Looking ahead, I think the most tedious work is behind me. Wish me luck and thanks for reading!

Daniel Wagner.

Click Here to read "Job Hunt Begins Before Graduation (Part 1)"


Friday, April 5, 2013

Zombie Apocalypse Survival Creative Writing Contest!

Come join the Zombie Apocalypse Survival Creative Writing Contest!

TO PARTICIPATE, PLEASE CLICK "LIKE" ON THE "DANIEL WAGNER CREATIVERSE" FACEBOOK PAGE, THEN LEAVE YOUR VERSION IN THE COMMENTS SECTION. COMMENTS ON THIS PAGE REGARDING A SURVIVAL STORY WILL NOT COUNT. (Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/danielwagnercreativerse ). Read on for more details.

This is something a little different from the normal blog posts.

Zombie survival writing contest
Here's the story (Some of you on Facebook may have already seen this; but additional commentary and details is to follow, so stay tuned!):

Do you have the wits to survive a Zombie attack? If you can prove your prowess in a series of insane scenarios, full of unforeseen challenges, you may have the chance to win a prize (Awarded to the top three "Survivors" at the end of this storyline). More details to follow.

With each new chapter, winners will be chosen from submissions in the comment section of this post and announced as either "Dead" or "Alive" based on a decision from our crack team of judges.

This week will be easy.

So without further ado, survive this:

Something has happened. You have no idea what it was that has caused large chunks of the population to turn into zombified vessels of their former selves, but it doesn't matter at this point. Pulling up Google for answers on your smart phone will do you no good at this point. The Internet's gone -- kaput!

The only thing that does matter is this: A horde of partially decaying starving zombies is feverishly tearing away the barricade you and your friends have placed at the front doors of the local Walmart.

Stuck inside with nowhere else to run, it's time to come up with a kick-ass survival plan. Unfortunately, the current Obama administration has spent so much time pushing anti-gun legislation that many of the people--fearful of losing their right to bear arms--have already bought out the entire stock of guns and ammunition. This is where your quick wit and infinite creativity may be the difference between life and death.

Staying within the guidelines of the following short list of rules, do you have what it takes to survive to the end?

1. Stay in the Arena (In this case, Walmart store is your oyster)
2. Be as realistic as possible (No casting magic spells)
3. Try to keep the language appropriate and respectful (Dropping the "F" bomb will result in automatic disqualification.
4. Have fun with it. This is by no means a graded assignment, will not be viewed by the government for tax purposes, and will not reflect poorly on you as a productive member of society.


(Ammo for your Arsenal: Notice I have not specified who your friends are or how many of them there are.


I REPEAT: TO PARTICIPATE, PLEASE CLICK "LIKE" ON THE "DANIEL WAGNER CREATIVERSE" FACEBOOK PAGE, THEN LEAVE YOUR VERSION IN THE COMMENTS SECTION. COMMENTS ON THIS PAGE REGARDING A SURVIVAL STORY WILL NOT COUNT. (Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/danielwagnercreativerse ).

After this round is over (submissions due by April 25, 2013, so please tell as many of your friends as you can!), I will be taking the best suggestions and incorporating them into chapter one of a final story. After the completion of the final story, three overall winners will be selected to win a cool prize to show how AWESOME you are for kicking Zombie ass!!
 
Here they come. I can hear some god-awful moaning and growling coming from outside!

Don't forget to share this page as well!

Daniel Wagner.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ten Year Anniversary Celebration at Readyville Mill

Ten Year Anniversary Celebration at Readyville Mill


Outside Readyville Mill
Readyville Mill
 Tucked away in a great spot next to the East Fork Stones River, the Readyville Mill is one of Middle Tennessee’s best kept secrets. For our ten year anniversary, Manda and I decided to grab a meal during their Saturday morning breakfast. As soon as we entered, we were met with a variety of aromas from the eatery that set our stomachs into a ferocious rumble. I had the fried vegetable frittata with sourdough toast and she had their locally famous whole-wheat pancakes with all-natural maple syrup. I devoured every morsel, short of licking the plate clean.

 After discovering the occasion of our visit, their incredibly talented in-house band, Johnny B. and the Balladeers, played for us a beautiful anniversary song. They seemed like a great group of musicians, periodically playing a mix of traditional American Music and originals and nonchalantly hanging out with the rest of us as we ate.

10 Year Anniversary Photo
The owner, Tomm Brady, wielding a cup of coffee and an equally warm smile greeted everyone as he circulated the grounds. During a brief conversation with Mr. Brady, he told us it took about five years after purchasing the property in 2006 to get the place ready for the public. He encouraged us to tour the property and to take as long as we like and was even courteous enough to snap a photo of Manda and I sitting on an outdoor deck by the riverside. 


We took a picture of the mill itself from the outside, though it looks even better from the inside. The staff was very friendly and professional and the atmosphere was charming and inviting. I would definitely recommend this destination if you’re looking for a great experience, complete with great food and more southern charm than you can shake a stick at.

My only concern is that you may have a little trouble finding the place due to a serious lack of any eye-catching signage posted on the main road. So just in case, here is a link to their website for more information: http://www.readyvillemill.com

For one last great photo... the writer in me HAD to have this one of the typewriter. Thanks goodness for good ol' Microsoft Word!

Old Typewriter at  Mill




 Daniel Wagner.

Please don't forget to share this if you enjoyed it. I welcome comments as well; the more the merrier!
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