December 18, 2014

How To Create A Business Plan For Free

I recently got a phone call from a lovely woman requesting some business coaching. She mentioned to me that she happens to also be a single mom supporting a few young children while on welfare. She wanted me to help her start a business. She sounded like a very talented and creative woman. She has a wonderful business idea. But, she feeds her family from foodstamps. So, I found myself faced with a dilemma that people in my profession of business or life coaching are often faced with: can I conscionably accept money from her for business coaching? While the answer is yes, I have every right to collect money for my expertise and time, the bigger question becomes, is there another way for someone in her situation to accomplish her goals that might fit more within her budgetary constraints and if so, what is my obligation to share these resources with her? The answer to that question would be personal to each individual coach. For me personally, I wouldn’t feel ethical accepting her as a client, not when I know that she can first acquire a basic foundation of business plan writing by tapping into a few key resources, for free. And so, her free 30 minute consult lead her to a plethora of free information and to this article.
For many people, the mere difficulty involved in weaving your way through the Internet and its millions of websites, more than half of them promoting some ‘perfect way to make money’ and figure out who to trust is incentive enough to seek out professional guidance. And rightly so, therefore, I often begin my coaching with clients by referring them to some of my favorite trust-able free resources. Below is a list of some of these reliable resources for the new budding entrepreneur.

The best and most trusted resource for Business Plan advice available today, on the web and in person, is www.Score.org. SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. They are funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and have been in business doing this for nearly fifty years. They have a network of 12,000+ volunteers and deliver most of their services at no charge or at very low cost. I suggest that any budding entrepreneur take full advantage of all of their free services and training before investing in the pay-for services. It’s a good way to test the waters without losing the sox off your feet. One of my favorite services that they offer is free mentorships. You can visit their website to find your closest SCORE chapter, they have over 340 chapters around the country, and request to meet with a mentor in your industry – they have over 62 industries represented. You can also take advantage of free business tools, training, confidential counseling and tips available on their website. They also offer local workshops as well as online 24/7 webinars.
If you are in the metro New York area, you may qualify for Hebrew Free Loan Society’s Microenterprise Lending Program. The goal of this program is to help borrowers establish or expand a small business as a path to economic security. The program is geared towards immigrants from the Former Soviet Union and the ultra-Orthodox community – both among the most economically vulnerable Jewish populations in New York. The program provides loans up to $25,000, culturally sensitive, locally sited core business training, pre- and post-loan technical assistance, including help in writing a business plan.

The Hebrew Free Loan Society also has a new Entrepreneurship Program For Baby Boomers. There is a $200 fee for the Baby Boomer program but the program is based on The Kauffman Foundation FastTrac® NewVenturetm program with a proven track record of success by helping people hone skills needed to create, manage and grow successful consulting and other businesses.
The Orthodox Union Job Board is another vast and wonderful professional resource. They offer many free training courses like Quickbooks, PowerPoint, Time Management and LinkedIn Groups all of which can give you the tools you will need to not only run a successful business but to write a professional business plan.

Another great educational and networking resource available today is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a social networking website for people in professional occupations. One of the key features of LinkedIn are the many LinkedIn Groups that you can join, where guidance and information is readily shared and provided. Once you set up your LinkedIn Profile, the LinkedIn computer algorithms will begin to recommend to you different groups you can join based on the information you have provided in your profile. The Orthodox Union and Score both have LinkedIn groups that are chock full of guidance. Weeding through LinkedIn Groups will take time, especially until you find the ones that are most useful to you and aren’t trying to sell you something. But these groups are a smaller, more targeted pool than the global internet.

There is so much information available between the Score website, OU courses and LinkedIn Groups, you could easily find yourself spending 20 hours a day, 6 days a week on it. I recommend that you allot a certain amount of time each day or week to your research and training and then really stick to that time frame. Coming up with a good time management plan and sticking to it is another key to entrepreneurial success.
Before you have a working business plan, don’t worry about spending money on patents, copywrites or lawyers. Its simply not neccesary until you have a working busines plan on the table.  Once you reach a point where the resources listed here are too elementary for you, you are ready to move on to some fee based courses, webinars and coaching. But do yourself a favor and don’t engage in them until you’ve completed all the homework I’ve outlined above. As a budding entrepreneur, the skills of initiative, independent learning, research, time management and taking advantage of free stuff, will be very necessary for your business’ success.

There are times, however, for each of us, when the above resources just don’t cut it. When you find yourself struggling with managing your time and priorities or you need a real person to bounce your ideas off of, provide guidance and some hand holding then Business Coaching might be a very worthwhile investment for you. If you find yourself in this situation, I am always happy to hear from you. Feel free to contact me at the below numbers or email address to set up a free 30 minute coaching consult. I wish you much success in building your business, helping our economy and not being taken for a fool!

Shoshana Raff, MScA, MSW, is a Business Coach and Management Professor in private practice in Monsey, NY. She helps small to medium size businesses and entrepreneurs learn the best ways to grow their business and become the success of their dreams. You can reach her at: 973-393-5581 or sr@raffbusiness.com for a free 30 minute coaching consult to see if business coaching is right for you.

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