Author: Michael O’Donnell
Publisher: Contemporary Books
Reviewer: Goke Ilesanmi
Planning is very critical to success of everything we do. It is even more important in business. That is why we are examining another book on business plans, tagged “Writing Business Plans That Get Results”, with the subtitle “A Step-by-Step Guide”.
It is authored by Michael O’Donnell, a business consultant with the Promersberger Company in Fargo, North Dakota. O’Donnell specialises in developing marketing plans for the firm’s clients. As a staff member of the Centre for Innovation and Business Development at the University of North Dakota, he worked with inventors and entrepreneurs on a daily basis.
According to O’Donnell, this text will show you how to create a business plan that works, adding that it will guide you on what to include in each section of your plan, the most efficient ways to evaluate your company’s products or services, marketing strategies, organisational structure, plans to achieve goals, competitors’ strengths, etc.
He says since a business plan is used for many purposes, that is, as a development tool, a management and planning guide, a mission statement, a sales document, etc., and is read by several different audiences, you need to tailor each part to the various needs of bankers, venture capitalists, partners, suppliers, accountants, etc. O’Donnell stresses that you should structure and arrange the components of your plan for greatest impact; anticipate all questions that business plan reviewers will ask; and critique and package your business plan for winning results.
The author says you need to feel comfortable with why you must go through the exercise of writing a business plan. He stresses that if you do not understand the reasons for it and the benefits it will bring, in all likelihood you will do a less-than-adequate job. O’Donnell adds that you will defeat your purpose before you ever get started. According to him, one plan will simply not suffice for all possible uses, and most seasoned entrepreneurs will write (or revise) a business plan at each stage of the company’s development. The most successful of these will then write several plans, each adapted to specific players, says O’Donnell.
Structurally, this text is segmented into 14 chapters christened “Modules”, in addition to another section tagged “Finishing touches”. Chapter one is christened “The executive summary”. According to this author here, “The executive summary is one complete module…The subheads should match the major headings or subjects you’ve covered in your business plan. The entire summary should be clear and to the point. Use short, choppy phrases. The language should be simple and demonstrate clarity of management objectives. Above all, the summary should show opportunity.”
O’Donnell says the opening statement should grab attention, and you should state something about being the first to introduce the product or the customer demands being generated from your initial market research. He advises that you should describe the nature of the business, i.e., type, location, business form, length, etc. Describe current milestones reached and their financial results, i.e., reaching x amount in sales, evaluation and testing completed, prototype built. State what industry your product addresses, adds this expert.
Chapter two is based on the subject matter of table of contents. O’Donnell suggests that the length should be one to two pages, adding that the following is a list of topics or issues you may include in the table of contents of your business plan. He says any one can stand alone as a separate section, based on importance of each issue to your start-up.
O’Donnell educates that you can include sections such as the company; the industry; product and related services; research and development; market analysis; marketing strategy; manufacturing process and operations; management and ownership; administration, organisation and personnel; milestones, schedule and strategic planning; critical risks and problems; and financial data and projections, etc.
In chapters three to nine, this author discusses table-of-contents-related concepts such as the company and industry; product and related services; research and development; market analysis; competitive analysis; marketing strategy; and manufacturing process/operations.
Chapter ten has the title of “Management and ownership”. According to O’Donnell here, your readers will want to know how the company is managed as much as who is managing it. He says you should demonstrate your awareness and understanding of the administrative details and explain the personnel needed and how you will fill and train these positions. Include an organisational chart that illustrates the company’s structure, lines of authority, responsibility, and delegation and give a brief synopsis of your management style and systems for ensuring excellence, guides this author.
In chapters 11 to 14, O’Donnell analytically X-rays concepts such as administration, organisation and personnel; milestones, schedule and strategic planning; critical risks and problems; and financial data and projections. According to him, this section is highly scrutinised by potential investors, and most sophisticated investors will undertake an independent financial analysis of the venture. He says this section must be thorough and convincing. O’Donnell adds that you should document the need for funds and demonstrate that you will use them responsibly to achieve business success.
As already said, in addition to these 14 chapters, O’Donnell also includes another section called “Finishing touches”, which includes exercises; recapitulation of what is already discussed in the text, etc.
On general concept assessment, this text is on the high rung of the ladder. Stylistically, this text is unique. To arouse readers’ active participation and attention, and offer them proper guide, O’Donnell asks pertinent questions at the beginning of every chapter.
By writing this book in a modular format, with each module designed to stand on its own, with the assumption that people collect, organise and absorb information in blocks, rather than in large doses, stylistic creativity is displayed by the author. This text is practical, comprehensive and the language is simple while the ideas are well presented.
However, he seems to overuse stylistic and emphatic tool of repetition in some areas.
On the whole, the text is conceptually fantastic. It is a must-read for all entrepreneurs that want their companies to be successful and profitable.
GOKE ILESANMI, Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Certified Public Speaker/MC, Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker and Career Management Coach. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
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