Monthly Archives: February 2015

But what image format is best?

Thomas Wilson
February 27, 2015 by

When designing a business plan for a client, the first step to a great design is getting assets from them – specifically, whatever images they’ve already developed as part of their brand. The most important of these assets is the logo. But just having a logo is not enough – it needs to be in the right format. If you have a low resolution logo it will only look good when displayed at a small size; if you have a logo on a white background, that limits where the logo can be placed which handcuffs the design possibilities.

I have had clients tell me to just pull their logo from a website, or ask me to use a logo from their PowerPoint file. Neither of these approaches is a good idea. Logos for websites are generally small resolution, and will reveal a “rough edge” when enlarged. Similarly, with PowerPoint and Word, even if the logo was large to begin with, those programs naturally compress embedded images. This means that a logo extracted from a slide or document may show that dreaded rough edge, even if the logo was large-format when it first got pasted in.

If you have had a logo professionally designed, you should have received the logo in many formats. Which type is best? Common formats include .AI (illustrator vector file), .EPS (could be vector or pixel), .PDF (also vector or pixel), .PNG (pixel but can have an invisible background) and .JPG (pixel with background). As a designer I love it when I get a .AI file, but a high resolution .PNG can also work really well.

People seem to believe a .JPG is the king of all file types, but .JPGs are only best for photography. Most logos are vector images which require a sharp edge. For logo images, the .JPG is the least versatile of the files I listed. When in doubt, go with the .PNG: it is the most versatile and works in print, on the web and in many word processing programs.

How your logo is presented is an extension of your company and its beliefs; make sure you also put your best logo forward.

MasterPlans-Logo

MasterPlans-Logo

Get your pencils out

Margarett Waterbury
February 18, 2015 by

It’s practically a self-improvement (and business school) cliché: the first step to achieving your goals is to have them. We all know that setting goals is important, but a historical study at Harvard points to just how important.

In 1979, MBA students were asked “have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” Eighty-four percent had no goals at all, 13% had unwritten goals, and just 3% had written goals and plans. Ten years later, the study’s authors followed up with the former students. The result? The group with unwritten goals was earning about twice as much as those with no goals, while the group with written goals – and a plan – were earning an average of ten times as much as the rest of their classmates.

That red squiggle is your MasterPlan ready to sweep you off your feet and into a place where you don't need to do whiteboard math.

That red squiggle is your MasterPlan ready to sweep you off your feet and into a place where you can afford a whiteboard.

When we work with clients at every stage of a venture, from startup to undergoing a merger or acquisition, we ask about business objectives and, whenever possible, we articulate them in the business plan. Clients’ goals range from the highly quantitative (“achieve $475,000 in revenue in Y1”) to the qualitative (“build sustainable work-life balance for self and employees”).

Whatever success means to you, MasterPlans can help you get there by putting your business’ goals in writing and developing a great plan to reach them. Just think where you could be in 10 years!

BuZENess Plans – Part 2

Pavel Rubin
February 18, 2015 by

Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism developed in China during the 6th century that has gained popularity in the Western World over the last century. Zen, as a philosophy and state of mind, can be applied to every aspect of life, including business. The following are some business plan writing related Zen kōans, or educational meditative anecdotes, that I have come up with during various writing sessions. Feel free to meditate upon these during your own business plan development process:

  • What is the sound of one hand performing in-depth market analysis?

zen4

  • A client approached MasterPlans and said, “Give me the best writer you have!”

    “All of our writers are the best,” replied MasterPlans. “You cannot find any writer here that is not the best!”

    At these words, the client was enlightened.

zen5

  • A Project Manager asked a MasterPlans editor for feedback on a plan.

    The editor asked “Is the plan finished?”

    “Yes, it is… but, it feels like there could be more,” replied the Project Manager

    “Go spend some time with your family and children,” said the editor.

    At that moment, the Project Manager was enlightened.

zen6

BuZENess Plans – Part 1

Pavel Rubin
February 11, 2015 by

Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism developed in China during the 6th century that has gained popularity in the Western World over the last century. Zen, as a philosophy and state of mind, can be applied to every aspect of life, including business. The following are some business plan writing related Zen kōans, or educational meditative anecdotes, that I have come up with during various writing sessions. Feel free to meditate upon these during your own business plan development process:

  • A MasterPlans writer was working on a business plan.

    Every time the writer would return the completed plan to the client, the client would request for new information to be added into the plan.

    Finally, the writer wrote every single one of the client’s ideas into the plan, stretching it to over 100 pages in length.

    Upon receiving the plan, the client exclaimed: “This is too long! How will anyone ever read this?”

    “This plan is just like your business, full of ideas but lacking direction.” Replied the writer. “How can I write the perfect plan unless you empty your mind first?”

zen

  • A client asked a MasterPlans writer, “How does one produce the perfect business plan?”

    The writer replied, “Paper is not paper and a pen is not a pen until the mind perceives it as such.”

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  • When you can write nothing, what can you write?

zen2

Stay tuned for more Zen musings in Part 2!

Chipotle: A Business Plan Case Study

Brock Aun
February 9, 2015 by

By now, everyone is familiar with the remarkable success of Chipotle and the significant impact of its meteoric rise on the restaurant industry. Last week, Bloomberg Business posted a fascinating oral history of Chipotle’s success story. You can read it here.

There are plenty of nuggets in this story that make the read worth your time, from the unexpected history of the Company’s founder to the evolution of his idea throughout the development of the Chipotle brand. Chipotle’s success story is a unique one because of the delicate manner in which the Company’s ownership balanced its very real need for capital with its own vision for identity, operations, and growth. At every turn, you can see the opportunities founder Steve Ells faced for an early exit, a shortcut, or a deference to external advice, and each time he becomes more certain of what he’s unwilling to compromise.

What is especially insightful about this piece, however, is the way in which Ells is periodically faced with the need for a business plan. At key moments in the Company’s struggle for success, Ells and his team develop a business plan to secure the capital and relationships they need to take them to the next level. There are some key takeaways on how they approached this process that every entrepreneur should abide by in their own planning process:

  • Business Plans are Useful at Every Stage: Steve Ells creates a business plan at three specific milestones: at the start for a loan from his father for his first location, in the middle of rapid expansion to fund further growth from family investors, and then at a later stage for national expansion from true venture capital firms. Even though the scale and urgency of each stage differed dramatically, the business plan ultimately served as a tool each time to clearly communicate the opportunity to the intended audience. To think that Chipotle may not have become the behemoth it is today if Steve Ells hadn’t created a convincing plan for his father is enough to make any of us shudder with gratitude at our lucky fortune.

  • Rejection Isn’t Invalidation: In the Company’s early venture capital outreach prior to the McDonald’s partnership, Steve’s father notes that their business plan was rejected by “13 venture capital or investment banker-type companies that specialize in the restaurant business.” The familiar refrain about failure and rejection suffered by even the most successful entrepreneurs is one we all know well, but this specific anecdote is revealing and important. Though each rejection was likely received for a different reason, hindsight makes it clear that these rejections were a huge mistake on the part of these firms. They reveal that industries and investors don’t always know what’s best for the market, and that no entrepreneur should take a rejection as invalidation of their idea and concept. It simply means you need to find a different investor.

  • The Numbers Matter: One of the more consistent themes in the piece is the strength and importance of transparent and thoroughly considered financial projections in business planning. Bob Ells notes that his son’s first plan (spanning a page) provided unit-driven projections factoring in each line item of expenses and incorporating multiple scenarios and a break-even projection. Later in his journey, Al Baldocchi (an early investor and later Director in Chipotle) specifically remarks that the unit economics of Steve’s investor economics are what revealed the significance of the opportunity to him. Steve’s mastery of his own financials, and his success in clearly demonstrating the viability of his model over time through his business plans, helped him earn the confidence of his funders every step of the way.

As you can see, Chipotle is more than just heaven wrapped in a tortilla. It’s also a true case study in what any business owner can accomplish with a vision and a plan.

And now I'm hungry.

A Place for Everything

Margarett Waterbury
February 5, 2015 by

Between delivering the mail, building roads, and endlessly bickering about budgets, the Federal Government finds time to engage in a favorite activity of mine: taxonomy. Namely, the sorting and categorizing of businesses into segments, sub-segments, and sub-sub-segments under the North American Industry Classification System.

The NAICS system was designed so that every business in North America would fall into one of its thousands of categories for the purposes of research and statistical record keeping. Think of NAICS like the Dewey decimal system. Each number means something, and the meaning gets more and more specific as you move from left to right.

Margarett-NAICScode

NAICS codes can be very useful for drawing generalized conclusions about an industry or market. Some of our clients, however, operate highly specialized businesses that experience distinct industry dynamics from the more general classification.

Consider a yoga studio. Under NAICS, it would fall under the 713940 classification: Fitness and Recreational Sports Centers. But a yoga studio is also pretty different than, say, an ice skating rink. One of the reasons we partner with market research leader IBISWorld is that their market research is based on NAICS codes, but also extend beyond them to include specialized reports on emerging segments (like Yoga and Pilates Studios) with important distinctions from the broader NAICS code.

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