Your Business: the better business plan

People often want to know if they really need to draft a business plan. The answer is yes. Creating a business plan is an important exercise for new and established business alike.

And yes, I know you are not looking forward to it. I have written three business plans over the years and I know that writing one is time consuming, a lot of work, and a sometimes frustrating process.

The first two times I did it, I drafted the plans from scratch, using models that I had read in books. They were fine business plans, not great by any means, but serviceable. Certainly the process of writing the business plan was very valuable. Doing so lets you think through the venture carefully, helping you to avoid problems before you encounter them.

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You don't have to go it alone

Out of work, out of benefits, wondering what to do? There are resources that can help you start your own business.

Not surprisingly Ben Jacklet’s blogs regarding which Oregon businesses are hiring have proven to be popular, and for good reason. People need jobs. Indeed, not a few folk who have been out of work for some time are starting to get antsy as the period they can receive unemployment benefits starts to dwindle.

So the time is now to start to think about starting your own small business. It need not be an expensive endeavor, nor a full-time one. Even starting a home-based, part-time venture that brings in a couple of hundred dollars a month can make a difference and is the sort of thing that can grow bigger.

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Are we more ethical?

I was recently playing racquetball with my friend Rick (I won for once, yeah me!) After we were done Rick asked me if I thought that businesses here are more ethical than in other places.

It got me to thinking about an incident that happened to me a few years back.

I owned a hot tub and wanted to sell it. A buyer came over and asked me whether, if she bought it, she could continue to keep it in my back yard for a month until she had her deck finished. No problem.

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More help on the way

Last week I reported that our own freshman senator Jeff Merkley was doing some good work in sponsoring a bill to help small business. Although there is a lot more Congress could do to help small business (we’ll tackle that one down the road) the good news is that another Oregon lawmaker is looking to pass legislation that will help small business.

Congressman David Wu is the co-sponsor of a bill sailing through Congress, the Enhancing Small Business Innovation and Research Act.

I am often asked if there really is “free money” available for small business startups. The short answer is, not surprisingly, no. But the longer answer is that there is some federal grant money available in very specific cases, due to this program, SBIR.

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A jump start for small biz

If history is any guide, it will be small business that leads the country out of these difficult economic times, and given that, it is nice to see that our own newly elected freshman senator, Jeff Merkley, is trying to help us help you.

Merkley recently introduced into Congress the Small Business Jump Start Act, designed to support small business owners by cutting taxes for the start-up costs of small businesses.

Presently, new businesses are eligible for a $5,000 tax deduction if they spend $50,000 or more on start-up costs. The new legislation proposed by Merkley and co-sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) would not only boost the deduction to $10,000, it would also expand eligibility to companies that spend up to $60,000 on getting started.

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Insurance bills don't help business

All of the chatter about healthcare reform is nice, but it sure does remind one of that old Mark Twain line: “Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

So we have to give at least a few props to the Oregon legislature for tackling the issue. They recently passed House Bills 2009 and 2116. Do they make health insurance more affordable? A small business owner might be heartened by the fact that a group called the Oregon Small Business Healthcare Initiative supported the passage the bills and consider them “important steps in controlling rising health care costs and improving the quality of health care for Oregonians.”

But in reality, what these twin bills have to do with small business is beyond me. According to Oregon Senate Democrats, “Together, the two bills will cover 95% of Oregon’s uninsured children and extend coverage to an additional 35,000 low-income adults while instituting a reformed model of health care delivery for Oregonians.”

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