Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Enticing an Investor

With all the bickering over how to solve our economic woes, getting credit has just gotten even tougher. I think getting credit should get tougher so that we become more responsible with our choices, tighter with the money we have, more focused on profit rather than borrowing, but credit is usually essential to keep a brokerage growing.

I found this article on About.com on how to maximize your business’s ability to get needed cash by writing a winning business plan. I’ve edited it a bit to be a quicker read.

Why Business Plans Don't Get Funded
by Akira Hirai, Cayenne Consulting

Investors see thousands of business plans each year, even in this down market. Apart from a referral from a trusted source, the business plan is the only basis they have for deciding whether or not to invite an entrepreneur to their offices for an initial meeting.

With so many opportunities, most investors simply focus on finding reasons to say no. Every mistake counts against you.

Avoid the most common errors found in business plans:

1. Content Mistakes/ Failing to relate to a true pain

You are in business to get paid for making pain go away.

Pain, in this setting, is synonymous with market opportunity. The greater the pain, the more widespread the pain, and the better your product is at alleviating the pain, the greater your market potential.

A well written business plan places the solution firmly in the context of the problem being solved.

2. Value inflation

Phrases like "unparalleled in the industry;" "unique and limited opportunity;" or "superb returns with limited capital investment"—taken from actual documents—are nothing but assertions and hype.

Investors will judge these factors for themselves. Lay out the facts—the problem, your solution, the market size, how you will sell it, and how you will stay ahead of competitors—and lay off the hype.

3. Trying to be all things to all people

Many early-stage companies believe that more is better. They explain how their product can be applied to multiple, diverse markets, or they devise a complex suite of products to bring to a market.

Most investors prefer to see a more focused strategy, especially for early stage companies: a single, superior product that solves a troublesome problem in a single, large market that will be sold through a single, proven distribution strategy.

That is not to say that additional products, applications, markets, and distribution channels should be discarded—instead, they should be used to enrich and support the highly focused core strategy.

You need to hold the story together with a strong, compelling core thread. Identify that, and let the rest be supporting characters.

4. No go-to-market strategy

Business plans that fail to explain the sales, marketing, and distribution strategy are doomed.

The key questions that must be answered are: who will buy it, why, and most importantly, how will you get it to them?

You must explain how you have already generated customer interest, obtained pre-orders, or better yet, made actual sales—and describe how you will leverage this experience through a cost-effective go-to-market strategy.

5. "We have no competition"

No matter what you may think, you have competitors. Maybe not a direct competitor—in the sense of a company offering an identical solution—but at least a substitute. Fingers are a substitute for a spoon. First class mail is a substitute for e-mail. A coronary bypass is a substitute for an angioplasty.

Competitors, simply stated, consist of everybody pursuing the same customer dollars.

To say that you have no competition is a fast way to get your plan tossed—investors will conclude that you do not have a full understanding of your market.

The "Competition" section of your business plan is your opportunity to showcase your relative strengths against direct competitors, indirect competitors, and substitutes.

Besides, having competitors is a good thing. It shows investors that a real market exists.

Moving forward,

Jeff Roach

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Communication is key

My friend and business affiliate contributed today's blog:

Every Freight Broker, Shipper and Carrier knows that on any given day hundreds if not thousands of freight loads go bad. The possibilities for a load to go bad are endless, since there are so many aspects and people involved in the moving of a load. It has been my personal experience to have had everything go wrong from a carrier not showing up for a pick up to a carrier getting sidetracked in Vegas while he had my load. The sidetracked Vegas trucker eventually ran out of money and fuel thus stranded a day away from his destination. I’ve had a load stolen (though no fault of mine...load was recovered). Carriers however are not always the problem. Snowstorms, bad weather, trucks breaking down, DOT and even the shippers changing plans or load details at the last minute can turn a load into a nightmare. The key to controlling a situation like this is communication. Shippers are not new to these types of situations and can be very forgiving to a Freight Broker providing they are kept in the loop. It is essential for the broker to contact the shipper as soon as he finds out about an issue with the shipper’s load. The worst thing that can happen is that the shipper finds out about a problem from someone other than their broker. Make sure the shipper has a clear understanding of the situation and tell them what you are doing about it. Keep in touch with them periodically even if you have no new news just to let them know that you are still on it. Regarding the carrier, make sure you have the dispatcher’s phone number, the driver’s phone number and an after hours number. It is imperative that you can reach the driver and dispatcher during a crisis. Make sure to talk with both the dispatcher and driver to get all the details of the situation. Sometimes you don't get the whole story by just talking to one. Stay on top of the carrier to make sure that they are doing all they can to handle the situation. We had a situation occur with a first time shipper the other day. A carrier cancelled the load an hour before picking up on a Friday at 5:00 (good luck finding a replacement truck) and after all was said and done, the shipper had this to say "don't worry about it, appreciated the good communication, you and I are all good". Let me tell you again, communication is key to keeping your shippers.

Douglas Dillon
G First Logistics
357 Longbush Lane
Webster, NY 14580
Ph 585-368-5643
Fax 585-368-5650

Thanks Doug. Communication is vital. When things don't go as planned we can cope much better when we are thoroughly informed along the way.

Moving forward,

Jeff Roach

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Both Sides of the Street

When we talk about building a freight brokerage business we tend to focus on the shippers. Of course you need stuff to move but just as important are competent carriers. The carriers I know are golden grassroots folks. They are hard working people who keep our country supplied with essentials and fun stuff too. It seems obvious that we should know as much about our carriers as we can but no one spends time talking with them.

Carve out some time to meet carriers in your area. Call on them. Great questions include: What are your needs? What are your lines? How often do you deadhead?
How can I help you?

Ask questions then sit back and let them talk. With the price of gas having dropped a little, they should be in a good mood. The more you know about both sides of the transportation chain the better able you will be to serve their needs.

Stay dry to all you in the Gulf Coast area as you prepare for Hurricane Ike. Have a great weekend.

Moving forward,

Jeff Roach

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Internet Lead Generation

My name is Daryl Clark Jeff Roach the owner of this blog is a client and friend of mine. I'm the guest blogger today (thanks Jeff!).

My specialty is helping small and medium size businesses take advantage of the Internet as a lead generation tool. One of the questions I frequently receive is, “How do I compare my website traffic with my competitor’s traffic?” Until recently there weren’t many options available. Many people use Alexa.com but the problem with Alexa is their statistics come only from the people who have downloaded the Alexa Tool Bar and added it to their computer. This is a small sampling of Internet users so the data is highly questionable.

The next source I really like is Compete.com. The nice thing about Compete.com is it also gives you an idea of what keywords people use to find your competitor’s websites.

The last and newest source is Google Trends for Websites. This new service from Google gives you a great picture of the long term traffic pattern of your site and your competitors but if you run a small business it doesn’t provide you with any data. I can say it is a great source for qualifying lead generation firms or firms that approach you to advertise in their websites though.

If you would like a free review of your websites true potential fill out my free evaluation form at http://www.internet-search-marketing.com

_ _ _ _ _

Daryl Clark
Internet Search Marketing
Ph. 1-866-909-0839 or 1-951-303-0839
Fx. 1-951-303-2136

Daryl has helped me tremendously in this whole new world of internet marketing. It may not seem new to some of you youngsters, but in the scheme of things it is a revolution for the way we all do business. And the technology is always changing, improving and getting even faster.

Moving Forward,

Jeff Roach

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day

My nephew asked, “why is it called Labor Day when no one works?” I used my handy wikipedia to come up with an intelligent answer. Here are some highlights. Cick to read the whole article.

Labor Day originated in 1882 as the Central Labor Union (of New York City) sought to create "a day off for the working citizens".

Congress made Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894 the first Monday in September.

The celebration of Labor Day was to be a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations," followed by a festival for the workers and their families. This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civil significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

Today, Labor Day is often regarded as a day of rest and the traditional end to summer. In addition, Labor Day marks the beginning of the season for the National Football League and NCAA College Football. The NCAA usually plays their first games the weekend of Labor day, with the NFL traditionally playing their first game the Thursday following Labor Day.
Labor Day traditions

Wickapedia listed several Labor Day weekend events. My favorite:
Mustaches on the River is an annual event that takes place Labor Day weekend. Traditionally participants grow mustaches for this float down the Russian River in Healdsburg, California. Mustaches are judged at the end of the day and all proceeds benefit charity. The event is seen by its participants as an exercise in self image and free expression.

Popular fashion etiquette dictates that white should not be worn after Labor Day. Western fashion marks labor day as the day to change your hat from straw to felt.

Enjoy the day off, stay dry if you are anywhere near Hurricane Gustof, and be thankful we live in a country of great opportunity.
Moving forward,

Jeff Roach