All posts by John

How to Write an Irresistible Business Proposal

  1. Find out about your potential partner by talking to them, reading their mission statement and researching them – as well as learning how they make decisions. This will reveal the “buttons” that you’ll need to press as you describe the benefits of the partnership (i.e. more profits, something new to offer their clients, giving their business a new edge on competition, etc.).
  2. Make an offer they can’t refuse. Again, this will also take some research, but within reason, you should bend over backwards to accommodate your potential partner and make it as profitable for them as possible. Remember that the clients you acquire from a joint venture will purchase from you again and again – and it’s usually the “back end profit” after the JV where the real money gets made…
  3. Make it as easy as possible for them to say “yes”. People in general are obnoxiously lazy. Many of proposals have been rejected simply because they either seem too complicated – or it sounds like too much work, regardless of how lucrative they are. Simplify your proposal, and if necessary, take on the majority of the workload – remember that you’re sitting on a goldmine!
  4. Show them the money. Don’t be vague when it comes to potential earnings. Logically explain to your prospect how much they could reasonably earn from the partnership. It is very important that you do not simply make an “educated guess” – base your predictions entirely on your current marketing stats, sales conversion rates and other real data. This is likely the most overlooked – yet crucial – part of any given JV proposal.
  5. Be personal. A “canned” or impersonal proposal likely won’t even make it more than ten seconds before getting tossed in the garbage. Relate to your prospect and emphasize their values by validating their interests, goals and passions. Also, if you want to really make an impact, send your proposal as a hard copy via FedEx. Email is simply too easy to ignore, erase or forget about.
  6. Add a real sense of urgency. You want to subtly hint to your potential partner that you won’t wait long to hear back from them – which is true, because if they say “no you’ll have to find someone else anyway. Word this in such a way that it compels them to action either way – but don’t be overbearing, deceptive or unrealistic.
  7. Build rapport with your prospect. You must understand that the majority of business people – especially those that are very successful – would much rather work with someone that they know, like and trust than a complete stranger. In fact, it’s crucial that you do this before you even send them a proposal…

We Are All Self Employed

Q: I am not yet ready to be self-employed, but wish to be in the near future. What can I do in my current job to prepare?

We are all self-employed; even as employees of a firm, we are still primarily personal career managers. Still, some of us are, or will become, entrepreneurs.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has developed a Checklist for Going into Business (http://www.sba.gov/content/use-our-starting-assessment-tool) that leads the prospective entrepreneur through a skills inventory that includes supervisory and/or managerial experience, business education, knowledge about the specific business of interest, and willingness to acquire the missing necessary skills. A commitment to filling any knowledge or experience gap is a very positive indicator of success.

Personal characteristics required, according to the SBA, include leadership, decisiveness, and competitiveness. Important factors in personal style include will power, and self-discipline, comfort with the planning process, and with working with others. Can you objectively rate yourself in these dimensions?

Peter F. Drucker, author of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, says that anybody from any organization can learn how to be an entrepreneur, that it is “systematic work.” But there is a difference between learning how to be, and succeeding as an entrepreneur. “When a person earns a degree in physics, he becomes a physicist,” says Morton Kamien, a professor of entrepreneurship at Northwestern University. “But if you were to earn a degree in entrepreneurship, that wouldn’t make you an entrepreneur.”

Why we are all self-employed

The reasons commonly given for people going into business for themselves are: freedom from a work routine; being your own boss; doing what you want when you want; boredom with the current job; financial desires, and; a perceived opportunity. Which of these might be sufficient to get you to take the risk?

How are you doing as a personal career manager? Trends toward downsizing and outsourcing will almost certainly lead to smaller companies utilizing networks of specialists. Fortune magazine suggests that “Almost everyone, up through the highest ranks of professionals, will feel increased pressure to specialize, or at least to package himself or herself as a marketable portfolio of skills.”

Xerox has published an article titled “12 Tips for Personal Career Growth.” The subtitle is illustrative of the challenges faced. “Personal growth is a journey that’s never complete. It’s easily sidelined by the day’s urgent tasks, yet it’s essential for long-term job satisfaction and advancement. Our tips include techniques and tactics that encourage personal growth and help keep it a priority.”

How marketable is your portfolio of skills? Many think they have several years’ experience, when what they really have is one year’s experience several times. Are you continuing to learn, and keeping up with developments in your field? The best approach to preparing for an entrepreneurial career is often to find some aspect of your field in which you can become expert. jbv.com is Dr. Vinturella’s management consulting site with tutorials on a wide range of topics in entrepreneurship, internet marketing and personal finance. jbv.com/library is an extensive set of links to anything an entrepreneur and market researcher might need. jbv.com/8steps discusses John’s latest book on business startup.

8 Steps to Starting a Business

About 8 Steps Can entrepreneurship be taught? Many of the skills of successful entrepreneurs can be taught, and sensitivity to business opportunity can be sharpened. A thorough and orderly approach to business planning allows us to assess whether an opportunity exists, and to chart the best way to take maximum advantage of that opportunity.

From there, a hardy individual can decide, with a little less uncertainty, whether or not to pursue that opportunity. A feature of this book is that it is centered on the business plan. After some basic concepts are treated, and an opportunity is selected, its evaluation and refinement are treated in the context of the appropriate section of the business plan. It has been my experience that this approach gives a structure to the planning process that makes it less intimidating, and more effective.

Case studies are integral to achieving our objectives. After some market research we discuss (often through minicases) the concepts applicable to some stage of the entrepreneurial process; the full cases then "drive home" these concepts by demonstrating them in action. One of these case studies threads its way through the entire text, describing the consequences of decisions made at various stages of a business on its later fortunes over a period of 20 years; not coincidentally, I was intimately involved in those decisions. I hope these cases help your entrepreneurial development as much as they have mine.