Creating A Business Plan For Awards

Stephen L. Capper, along with his wife, Nora, and their daughters, Jami and Toni, owns and operates A-1 Awards, Inc. in Indianapolis. He has been associated with the awards and recognition industry for over 45 years, and has given numerous seminars since 1979.

Our ambitions should be clearly defined, and the method for accomplishing the ambitions should be as clearly thought out. We will need a written plan if we go to a financial institution for a loan or if we are thinking about interesting an investor to join us.

As I have talked with many in the awards business over the years, I have asked them how they started in business, and they have often told me the same story. They were connected with the awards industry through an activity, either a hobby or maybe just an association with a sport like little league baseball.

They couldn’t find what they wanted in an award, or they simply saw that there was a profit in a business that appeared to have a minimal investment. At least at the beginning it was minimal. We all know today it is easy to have equipment alone valued in excess of $100,000 or much more.

Anyway, after a little investigation, the entrepreneurs decide to start their new part-time ventures. And after a season or two, they can choose to expand their business and go into it full time or, on some occasions, they leave our industry. Those who stayed in business may have set themselves up for some problems.

If these business people set their pricing based on the overhead incurred while running their operations out of their basements or garages, they will find that, upon expanding to a storefront location, they must charge more for their merchandise. Their clientele may refuse to go with these increases. It takes fore-planning to avoid such a pitfall.

The desire to succeed and provide for our families by going into a business better than the one we had previously been in is understandable, but that desire must be accompanied by wise business strategies, or it will not lead to the planned goal. Our ambitions should be clearly defined, and the method for accomplishing the ambitions should be as clearly thought out.

MAKE A WRITTEN PLAN IN PENCIL

But to take our plan to the next level would be to have it written out as to how we think we are going to accomplish it. We will need this written plan if we go to a financial institution for a loan or if we are thinking about interesting an investor to join us. It is important to make little goals as we go along in order to check ourselves to see if we are on the right track. If we make one large goal at the end of our journey then it becomes very difficult to know if we are on the right track for success.

When any of us start a new venture or business, we have a plan, even if it is in our mind. That plan can be very simple, or it can be detailed, with a specific timetable for our accomplishments. But it is hard to accomplish almost anything unless we know what we want to accomplish!

Sometimes the most difficult part of establishing our plan is to decide on our goal. The goal must be at the pinnacle of our existence. That goal must be not only the desire to succeed for financial gain; it must also be a burning desire within us that gives us the strength to keep on going when there just doesn’t seem to be a way to make it succeed.

My father, who was a group life insurance salesman for 37 years, said, “Success is 10” long.” That is the distance from the average person’s heart to their head. You must have the desire in your heart to have it in your head. With our desire and will, we know that somehow we can accomplish the goal. We will simply not settle for anything less than complete accomplishment of our goal.

Many times I have put the question to our seminar audiences, “How many of you are in this city for the first time?” I then will see many hands go in the air. Then the follow-up question is, “What was the first thing you did when you decided to come to this city?” Then I will almost always have some say they looked at a map. That map showed them the way to their destination.

Our business life is just like taking that trip, but we need a map; otherwise, we will never know if we have arrived at our destination. Or to put it another way, we will never know if we have arrived unless we know where we want to go. The key is the goal! It must be meaningful and unselfish, with an end that can improve the quality of life of more than just the dreamer of the goal.

JUST HOW DO WE STRUCTURE OUR PLAN?

Is your plan good enough to take to the bank? It must be good enough to take to the bank and get a loan on your idea. Of course, there are a number of other criteria for obtaining a loan at the bank things like our credit standing and our ability to repay a loan. But that having been said, will our plan satisfy an experienced mind, like a banker, who has seen many pie-in-the-sky ideas before?

The banker will have a very objective view of our idea, and we need to think a little like the banker and be objective about the chances for success with our business. In every business, there are those who succeed and others who do not, but all businesses have someone on top of the hill. It is not enough to say we want to plan to be successful at our goal. We must establish a yardstick for measuring our accomplishments. Our plan must have a timeframe for accomplishment, because the bankers are interested in when they are going to get paid back.

PLANNING IS HALF THE BATTLE

Planning a worthy goal can be a very difficult decision because how do we know what we really want unless we have had that experience before? The sad fact is that so many will live and die without having ever accomplished their real goals in life often because they never really set any defined goals.

If we have no plan for success in our lives or our business, then it’s essential that we make a plan. Does it mean that without a plan we can’t succeed? No. But just like having a map before we go on a trip tells us where we are going, a plan can give an indication of where we are headed. There may be a lot of detours on our business plan, but we will be better prepared to handle them.