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Business Plan and Start Up Newsletter Issue #1027-Gathering Information For Your Plan
February 16, 2006

Make Brainstorming Work for You, Not Against You New Page 2

Business Plan And Start Up Newsletter

February 2006
Written by Shaunta Pleasant
President, TL Manage Inc.

Business Plan Pro 2006...

Everything banks; lenders and the SBA look for! Produce your business plan quickly and easily... For entrepreneurs and small-business owners. Business Plan Pro 2006


********Table of Content********

Gathering Information For Your Plan ...

Make Brainstorming Work for You, Not Against You ...

A Few Cool Helpful Notes...


Gathering Information For Your Plan
By Palo Alto Software, Inc.

A common problem people encounter when writing their business plan is finding information about their business industry and competitive companies. Fortunately, in recent years the Internet has made information gathering simple and easy, but sometimes the best information is found much closer to home, with real people, in real time.

Always take a look at other businesses similar to your own, as a very good first step. If you're looking at starting a new business, you may well be starting one similar to one you already know. If you're doing a plan for an existing business, you are even more likely to know the business well. Even so, you can still learn a lot by looking at other similar businesses.

  • Look at existing, similar businesses.
  • If you are planning a retail shoe store, for example, spend some time looking at existing retail shoe store businesses. Park across the street and count the customers that go into the store. Note how long they stay inside, and how many come out with boxes that look like purchased shoes. You can probably even count how many pairs of shoes each customer buys. Browse the store and look at prices. Look at several stores, including the discount shoe stores and department store shoe departments.
  • Find a similar business in another place.
  • Find a similar business far enough away that you won't compete. For the shoe store example, you would identify shoe stores in similar towns in other states. Call the owner, explain your purpose truthfully, and ask about the business.
  • Scan local newspapers for people selling a similar business.
  • Contact the broker and ask for as much information as possible. If you are thinking of creating a shoe store and you find one for sale, you should consider yourself a prospective buyer. Maybe buying the existing store is the best thing. Even if you don't buy, the information you gain will be very valuable. Why is the owner selling? Is there something wrong with the business? You can probably get detailed financial information.
  • Always shop the competition.
  • If you're in the restaurant business, patronize your competition once a month, rotating through different restaurants. If you own a shoe store, shop your competition once a month, and visit different stores.

It takes a little hard work but by using the Internet and doing some research at local businesses, you should be able to gather all the information necessary for your business plan.


The Importance Of A Business Planning Blog

Make Brainstorming Work for You, Not Against You
By Glory Borgeson

I enjoyed the Martha Stewart apprentice show (not sure why "America" didn't like it). Even the frustrating parts of the show caught my attention, in an inquisitive, "here's something to learn" kind of way.

Week after week, Martha's apprentice nominees started a new project by gathering with their team to come up with ideas of how to implement their new task. Each team wanted to come up with something that was better than the other team so that they would be declared the winner.

And week after week, I observed mismanaged brainstorming and evaluating, resulting in frustrated team members and lukewarm ideas.

What did they keep doing wrong?

One week, team member Leslie from the (constantly) winning team came over to the losing team to lead them as their project manager. It took this team too long to perform the tasks of brainstorming and evaluating. During the brainstorming session, they kept evaluating. When they finally got to the evaluating part of the task in order to choose one idea, they kept brainstorming new ideas! Getting to the point of choosing one idea took them 6 hours, when it should have taken about 2 hours.

On another episode, Sarah, as the project manager, decided that her team members would start out by brainstorming silently. WHAT?

What in the world is brainstorming silently? I'll tell you what it is: It's nothing!

The basic idea of brainstorming is that everyone gets to hear everyone else's ideas, and that ideas generate more ideas! In other words, when people hear other peoples' ideas, it gets their thoughts going, and more ideas appear. So, even bad ideas generate good ideas!

And that leads me to the problem I've seen from Martha's apprentice candidates over and over. It is the same problem repeated in millions of businesses worldwide. While they're brainstorming ideas, they're evaluating ideas; and when they're evaluating ideas, they're brainstorming even more ideas.

No wonder it takes too long to get through this process!

Here is a very simple solution to this chaotic problem:

  • The brainstorming phase is for idea generation only!
  • When you are brainstorming, there is no evaluation of ideas allowed.
  • During brainstorming, there is no development of ideas allowed.
  • Schedule a set amount of time for brainstorming.
  • Appoint someone as the "scribe" who writes all ideas on either a flip chart or a white board.
  • Even bad ideas get put on the list (because "even bad ideas generate good ideas" ).
  • Once the brainstorming session is over, the evaluation stage begins.
  • During evaluation, there is no more brainstorming.
  • Schedule a set amount of time for evaluation.
  • First, weed out the ideas that are bad, goofy, distasteful, and just won't work (according to the group).
  • Try to whittle the list down to the two best ideas (without developing the ideas yet).
  • Once you have your two best ideas, spend a set amount of time brainstorming (yes, again!) how each of these two main ideas could be developed (and, again, only ideas and more ideas at this time).
  • Evaluate one of the main ideas (and all of the development ideas you just thought of that go along with it).
  • Evaluate the second main idea (and all of its development ideas).
  • Decide between the two which you are going to implement!

If teams would focus on this method for brainstorming and evaluation, they would come up with better ideas and better ways to implement those ideas. Also, they would no longer feel that this process is a heavy, mind-numbing burden. Rather, they would feel that this process is fun, invigorating, and challenging (in the good way!).

Read on to my article titled "How to Brainstorm with a Large Team" (also available at to find out how to do brainstorming with a large team. Even if you have a team of less than 20 people, the additional ideas will help you to use each individual team member's talents and skills to generate the best ideas possible.

2006 Borgeson Consulting, Inc.

Glory Borgeson is a business coach and consultant, and the president of Borgeson Consulting, Inc. She specializes in helping small business owners (of 500 or less employees) to increase profit and decrease stress. Whether an entrepreneur is at the top of his game like any top athletes you can think of today, or a rookie just starting his business, Glory works with the entire spectrum of entrepreneur. Top athletes have a coach; why not you? Click here for Borgeson Consulting, Inc.

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A Few Cool Helpful Notes

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