The Power of BusinessWorks is in the way it uses the blog format as an integral part of a process, to solve a business problem. - Small Business Trends PowerBlog Review
Other great resources from FORBES Best of Web - Small Business Blogs
Sunday, July 31, 2005
BusinessWorks is a would-be entrepreneur's blog. Today I would like to share with my readers other great blogs which are on FORBES-Best of Web
list under Small Business Blog Category
. These blogs have contributed towards business in general, marketing and entrepreneurship with their excellent posts and informational material. I am honored to find my blog in the elite company of these blogs. Visit them and find out for yourself:Duct Tape Marketing
by John Jantsch (rated Forbes Favorite)All Business Blog CenterChurch of the Customer
by Ben Mcconnel and Jackie HubaFresh Inc.
by Inc.comSmall Business Trends
by Anita CampbellEntrepreneurial Mind
by Jeff CornwallSmall Business Brief
by Linda Riley
Some more business basics
Saturday, July 30, 2005
My last post must have left you thinking, whether you are made for business and entrepreneurship? Today's post will make sure if you are ready for the most exciting, sometimes hardest, time of your life. So let us begin that journey towards that realization.Gaining Real World Knowledge
There is a modern saying by yours truly, if you want to be in the business of RFID, you have to work in the field of RFID and gain some valuable experience or going by an older saying, you must learn to walk before you run. On serious note, if you already have the expertise in the area of technology on which your business will be based on, gain some sales and marketing experience. This experience will help you gain valuable insight to develop products with marketability value.Finding Seed Capital
If there is a need for $1 million for your business, your options are to approach venture capitalist, maybe an angel investor or to the bank. Irrespective of which path you choose to raise capital, each one of this source will ask for your commitment in terms of money. They want to know your motivation to succeed in the business. Having an idea is not enough.
You need to come up with atleast 20% of the funds to invest in the business. This 20% capital may be raised from your own savings or from your relatives and friends. Cut your expenses. However, do not touch your retirement savings. You will need those savings for your future.Simplify..Simplify
At every moment in your entrepreneurial journey, try to keep things as simple as possible. Remember you have only 24 hours in a day, possibly have a family and a business to run. It is in your best interest to simplify the processes, do not try to do every small thing yourself, delegate as much as possible. Concentrate on your area of expertise, and leave other things to the experts in their respective fields. An entrepreneur is always working hard trying to manage money in an efficient way and in this effort he ends up doing everything himself and loses his focus. This is one of the most common reason of the failure of start-up businesses.Plan before you Leap
Planning is everywhere in our life. To wake up in morning, you plan in night and set up alarm clock to wake you up. Business is same way, you must plan well in advance. Even if you do not have the seed money, you must have a business plan to have an idea about expenses involved. Business plan is a path for you to follow. So make this plan early and be on your way from Concept to Wall Street.
Back to Business Basics
Thursday, July 28, 2005
In my past posts, I have stated, Phase I grants can range from $70,000 to $100,000. If you think this amount is enough to get started and and sustain your business for a period of six months (time provided by federal agencies for completion of Phase I), then you have severely underestimated your budget. What I am getting at is, once you sit down to write a financial plan, you will realize Phase I Amount won't even last you for three months. When I sat down to write a proposal for a RFID based project, I was shocked to see calculated capital requirements.
Please read my post about Cost of business
and subsequent post about Capital and Expense Projection
, there is a minimum outlay of $2 million! There is a big gap to be filled and the question is, how do you bridge this gap? Let us go back to basics of business to find the answer.Basic Business Requirements
You must have :
- a feasible and marketable idea, product or service.
- knowledge (or some one knowledgeable) of the product.
- access to working Capital.
- an operating, marketing, business and financial plan.
- Economic and emotional ability to withstand ups and downs of the business.
These requirements are valid whether you are starting a business, buying an independent business or a franchised business. You have to set realistic goals. Generally when it is your idea, you tend to be biased towards that idea and ignore certain critical things like Capital. Make sure you get your idea evaluated from your trusted source and not ignore things that are important. Do ask yourself following questions:
1. What product / service your idea will provide?
2. What needs does this idea will fulfill?
3. Who will be your potential customers?
4. How will you reach these customers?
5. Why will they purchase this product or service from you?
6. Where will the Capital come from?
When you can convincingly answer each of these questions, you can move forward and take your second, third and fourth steps. Bottomline:
When you solve the jigsaw puzzle of your future business, Phase I funding is just a small piece of this puzzle.
BusinessWorks featured on the Forbes Best of Web List
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
My 15 minutes of fame! BusinessWorks is featured on Forbes.com, Best of Web under the Small Business Blogs category. Read the complete review here.
Lea Goldman of Forbes has pointed out a couple of things, that I definitely need to work on. First is "big gaps between posts". I am guilty as charged. I agree, I was busy developing my other weblog about Business Blog Process Outsourcing. Lea also says "while Keshwani is exceedingly detailed about the nuances of starting a business, where's the heart? You don't get a sense of the blood, sweat and tears involved in the start-up process.". While it is true online, real life is different. Nothing is achieved without blood, sweat and tears.
Components of an Effective SBIR/STTR funding proposal
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Your proposal is the first and one of the most important step towards SBIR/STTR Funding. So it better be effective. Today I will write about components of a SBIR/STTR funding proposal.1. Title
- This is self-explanatory, but extremely important.1.1 Project Summary
- Write one page of summary to provide overview of your idea and the project.1.2 Project Description1.2.1 Identification and Importance of the Innovation
- Identify and explain the significance of your innovation and how it improves existing environment or the current process. No more than 1.5 pages.1.2.2 Background and Technical Objectives
- Describe the background and define technical objectives of your innovation. Upto 3 pages1.2.3 Research Plan
- Details of hardware/software you plan to use for the research. Can be upto 2-3 pages.1.2.4 Company Information
- Describe in a page about your company, its past achievements etc.1.2.5 Commercial Potential and Feasibility
- Provide commercial potential and most important, feasibility of your idea within provided time frame of the project. About 1.5 pages.1.2.6 Consultants required for the Project
- List names and brief resumes of consultants required for the project. 1 or 2 pages
.1.2.7 Overlapping or Equivalent Proposals to other Federal Agencies, if any.
- Many a times, two federal agencies may have solicitations which are similar in nature. You may propose to both agencies, but you must mention it on the proposal.1.3 Cited References
- Provide your sources of information, research here.1.4 Biographical Sketch
- List your technical staff, with brief resumes here.1.5 Budget1.5.1 Personnel Budget
- Provide yearly salary for the required personnel, with their roles clearly defined.1.5.2 Hardware/Tools Resources Budget
- Provide hardware, software and miscellaneous supplies and material costs over here.1.5.3 Consultant Budget
- list Consultant salaries here.1.5.4 Travel Budget
- Amount reserved for travel purposes must be listed here.
Provide justifications for each budget and a work breakdown structure. Try to keep the budgets very close to the funding available for the Phase that you are proposing for. If your budget exceeds the funding available with agencies, provide details about how do you plan to bridge that gap.
Tips for writing a Proposal for SBIR/STTR solicitation or grants
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
A proposal is a response to SBIR/STTR grant or solicitation, which may either result in funding of your project or a rejection. This underscores the importance of the proposal for an enterprenuer. In a way, a proposal is no different from creating a Business Plan
, except that it is more focussed on the solicitation. Here are few tips in creating a winner proposal (These tips apply to all three phases)
1. Search for the solicitation that best suits your skills on SBIRWorld
. Download the solicitation from the Agency's website. Thoroughly read the solicitation. If you do not meet the requirements, do not submit the proposal until you fully meet the requirements of the solicitation. You may lose out on one solicitation, but there are many more opportunities from various agencies with many of them releasing solicitations every three months.
2. Never go for creating a proposal alone. There are financial and technical components involved. Involve your qualified personnel to help you create projections. If possible, hire an experienced proposal writer. It is money well spent.
3. Be ready to spend 250+ hours in creating a proposal. Although it is a 20-24 pages of proposal, there is lot of work involved in proposing a feasible idea.
4. Be open to collaboration with corporations and universities. Universities are a great resource of research talent and corporations are a great source of additional funding.
5. For each solicitation, there is a Program manager assigned to it by the agency. Sometimes written word must be supplemented with spoken word. Ask Program manager about what agency is looking for in the proposal. Program Manager is there to help, so utilize this resource well.
6. If possible, attend a SIBIR/STTR conference to increase your knowledge and understanding of the process. You can meet program managers, Grant and contract awardees face to face and learn from them. Once again great resource for the conferences is SBIRWorld.
7. Learn from the success stories found on each agency's website.
8. Be very clear while presenting your ideas. If you cannot explain your idea in less than 4 lines, you need to work harder on clarifying your idea.
I hope these tips help you in creating that winner proposal. I wish you luck and feel free to write to me if you have any questions about these tips.
SBIR, STTR and RFID
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
My last post, was about SBIR funding. Today, I will write about funding opportunities available in the area of RFID and Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN), but first let me mention few resources available for SBIR. One of the most comprehensive resource is SBIRWorld
. It is a warehouse of SBIR/STTR related conferences, open and past solicitations and federal agencies. Search feature helps in searching open and past solicitations for projects of special interests. For example, I searched for "RFID" and found 14 past solicitations in near past.
Second resource is a regular E-mail alert received roughly every three weeks with open solicitations and due dates for the solicitations. Send an email to lyris-at-lyris-dot-pnl-dot-gov (replace -at- with @ and -dot- with .) with words "Subscribe sbir-alert" in Subject of E-mail.
Federal agencies like National Science Foundation
, Department of Defence - Army
and Department of Defence - Navy
are major funding agencies for RFID related grants and solicitations. Sometimes RFID related solicitations can come from unexpected sources like Department of Agriculture-for tagging the poultry and other farm animals, especially in the wake of mad cow disease.
National Science Foundation (NSF) has one of the most open ended grants, where you can provide a proposal about your unique idea based on the general guidelines provided and get funded. Ofcourse your idea should be practical and feasible. However, as more and more people become aware of SBIR grants and solicitations, competition increases and it gets relatively hard to get funding. One key thing to remember, SBIR funds may or may not be enough to completely finance your business operations, so it is prudent to have other financing resources available for your business.
In my next post, I will provide some tips on writing a proposal for the grant or solicitation.