Starting a business – Step 3 (planning)

In Steps 1 and 2, I advocated getting lots of advice – from free publicly subsidized sources, from the internet, and from the marketplace. Now, I’m going to be an advocate for business planning. BUT – it is not necessarily a one size fits all deal. Simply put, a business plan is nothing more than a systematic, thoughtful consideration of the key aspects of your business, from marketing to capital, from costs to produce to employees. I recommend it first and foremost to do it for yourself. It also is a critical document and/or slide deck when you’re trying to raise money…either from a bank or investors. So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite resources for business plans and business planning:

  1. SBA – How to Write A Business Plan (SBA’s 3 min. overview video, embedded above)
  2. Wikipedia – Business plan (good written overview of what a business plan is)
  3. SBA/Palo Alto – Developing a Successful Business Plan (free online course given by Tim Berry)
  4. Sequoia Capital – Developing a Business Plan (three articles w/Venture Capital perspective)
  5. StartmeUpVideo – Examples and Best Practices of Business Planning (15 min. interview with Tim Gedeon)
  6. docstocTV – 10 Key Questions to Address: Business Plans (9 min. video on key bullet points of business plans/planning)
  7. UC Berkeley – How to Write a Business Plan (hour long video presentation from 2010 on nuts and bolts)
  8. SBA – How to Write A Business Plan (content hub for components of business plan; each section has other articles…good)
  9. SBA – Create a Business Plan (place to register to get access to SBA’s free Business Plan Tool)
  10. SBA – Two Sample Business Plans (two sample plans, have to cut and paste the first link, but it works)
  11. Forbes (Patrick Lull) – 10 Essential Business Plan Components (blog post, very brief overview)
  12. Inc (Elisabeth Wasserman) – How to Write a Great Business Plan (more detailed overview, further links allow to go deeper)
  13. Inc – How to Structure a Business Plan (content hub with links to 30 relevant articles)
  14. Inc – Business Plans (Pinterest-type links to all articles in Inc relating to business planning)
  15. Bplans – Business Planning Guide (Palo Alto Software’s content hub, 500+ templates, free tool, detailed instructions)
  16. Wikihow – How to Write a Business Plan (medium level of detail, 2 min. video overview)
  17. SCORE – Business Planning and Financial Statements Template Gallery (more than 30 resources)
  18. Entrepreneur – Business Plan Templates (20+ downloadable resources)
  19. Entrepreneur – Top 10 Business Plan Mistakes (self explanatory)
  20. WSJ – Why Business Plans Don’t Deliver (post on 5 most common flaws in business plans)

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Starting a business – Step 1 (advice)

Small Business Development Center Director Bill Auxter

Small Business Development Center Director Bill Auxter

Almost 60 businesses start up in Seneca County each year, or more than one every week. People ask me for advice on what to do, so I wanted to get my thoughts down. I wrote a series of articles five years ago on this very subject, and I think a lot of that advice is still fundamentally sound. I wanted, though, to provide and updated and improved guide specific to Tiffin and Seneca County.

The federal government (Small Business Administration or SBA) recommends ten steps, beginning with a business plan. My steps start before the business plan, as some future business owners don’t know what a business plan is or how to do one and/or they don’t know yet if they should invest the time in creating one.

Step 1. Take advantage of free consulting

In addition to getting all the input entrepreneurs will get from friends, family, and their own network, my recommended first step is to also get feedback from publicly funded business counseling. Believe it or not, there is a lot of very good free (yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron) business counseling (aka consulting) paid for by state and federal taxpayer dollars. After I get some positive feedback about the counselors locally (which I have,) I recommend people start there. The most appropriate type of counseling depends on whether or not the business is primarily technology-based. That is – are you seeking primarily to commercialize (bring to market) a product based on an innovative new technology?

1a. Talk to the Small Business Development Center

If you are primarily not technology-based, you should talk to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC.) The SBDC program is a federal program started in 1975 and supporting 1,000 technical assistance “centers” across the country. A center is typically made up of (federally) certified small business counselors with real world experience who can help businesses and provide free, confidential one-on-one business advising, management training, educational programs and technical assistance. In Ohio, the program was established in 1985 and consists of a state network of 38 SBDCs statewide managed by the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA). The center serving Tiffin and Seneca County is located at Terra State Community College in Fremont and is run by Bill Auxter.

Beginner – attend a Small Business Basics seminar

If you starting a business is new to you or if you want to brush up on your basics, attend one of these sessions hosted by the Seneca Regional Chamber of Commerce and taught by Bill Auxter. These two-hour sessions are free and take place every second Wednesday of the month (except July and December), from 9:30 to 11:30 am.

Intermediate – make an appointment with Bill Auxter

If you have experience starting businesses, I would recommend setting an appointment with Bill directly by calling him at 419.559.2210 or e-mailing him at

1b. Talk to Rocket Ventures

2014_03_24 - Savage_Bob 2

Bob Savage talking about the impact of Rocket Ventures at a recent NORED meeting.

If you are trying to commercialize a new technology and believe you are “technology-based,” I would advise skipping the Small Business Development Center and reaching out directly to Rocket Ventures.

Founded in 2007 and based in Toledo, the Rocket Ventures organization fundamentally is a resource for capital and commercialization assistance to Northwest Ohio technology-based companies, including those in Tiffin and Seneca County.  Signed client companies are eligible for funding consideration and automatically access our professional team, who provide unparalleled knowledge, assistance, and track records of success in launching early-stage tech companies.

Rocket Ventures is run by Bob Savage, a co-founder and managing partner of Savage Consulting and the angel group CoreNetwork, who previously worked in mergers and acquisitions at Libbey-Owens-Ford and Seagate Venture Management. Prior to that, he was with Monoky Associates, where he was a consultant and trainer.

The number for Rocket Ventures is  (419) 464-0353 or you can fill out their online contact form. They will work to determine whether you are a good fit for their services.

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