Tuesday, April 30, 2013

10 Tips For Writing An Executive Summary

By Richard Lindfield

1.  Write it LAST! Although the Executive Summary (ES) comes at the front of a Business Plan, it must be written after all other sections of the plan have been completed. It is an introduction to your business, so craft it accordingly. Your ES will include summaries of each of the sections within the plan, including a few of the sub sections.

2.  Keep it BRIEF! It is a summary; don’t clutter it up with details. The appropriate section of the business plan will provide all the details required. If you put too much information into the ES readers might not bother to read the rest of it! Also, you don’t want to waste the reader’s time including details that will be covered again later.

3.  Be POSITIVE! Don’t speak in maybes full of wishing and hoping. Never say you may do something. Always say you will do something. Be emphatic and positive about everything you write.

4.  Add some PUNCH! Since the ES is the first thing that readers see, you want it to stand out and make them want to read more. If you fail to capture their attention during the ES then they are less likely to read the rest of the Business Plan.

5.  Be ORIGINAL! Don’t cut and paste sentences from other sections. It is better to select the most important sentences and then paraphrase them instead. This keeps the readers from encountering a feeling of déjà vu when they are reading the actual section later on.

6.  Get their ATTENTION! Start with a well crafted opening paragraph that says who you are, what you do, and why they should care about your business. Start with a general truth (e.g., “For many years there has been a need for X in industry Y”), follow it with a bridge to your business (e.g., “That’s why insert name here introduced insert product or service here to alleviate that need”), then tell readers why it matters. After you write the bridge, read it aloud and then ask yourself “So What?” and write the answer into your plan.

7.  Lose the CLUTTER! Just state the facts; keep it concise and “earn the right” to take up more of the readers’ time. Keep your ES to one or two pages (under 1000 words). Don’t try to jam too much information in by writing long convoluted run on sentences. Brevity, clarity, and enthusiasm should be the order of the day.

8.  Be ACCURATE! Spelling and grammar are important. Use software to check for errors, and if possible hire a professional to edit it for you. Don’t make any extravagant claims that you cannot back up with solid proof somewhere in your Business Plan.

9.  Get some FEEDBACK! It isn’t done when you are done. Set it aside for an hour, then come back and read it out loud to yourself. If it sounds awkward when you read it, refine the wording until it sounds smooth. Once you are comfortable with the way it reads and sounds read it to someone else and elicit feedback from them.

10.  Finish STRONG! Write a closing sentence summarizing the essence of why your business will be successful. Essentially it is a closing “So What?” statement. (e.g., “In short, ABC Company’s unparalleled customer support coupled with our innovative products ensures that…”).

Richard Lindfield is the Director of Training at Fraser Valley Training Group.  He's also a social media strategist, LinkedIn trainer, and business coach.  You can get in touch with Richard through Linkedin at  http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/richard-lindfield/1a/757/38a.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

5 Reasons To Learn More About Self-Employment

Most Career Development Practitioners (CDPs) know that the percentage of both the unemployed and self-employed rises during a recession. It seems that when people are unable to find work, self-employment is viewed as a viable alternative. Consequently, it would make sense that CDPs supporting unemployed Canadians would also consider self-employment as a viable alternative for their clients. This, however, doesn’t appear to be the case.

As part of the research conducted to support the Look Before You Leap project, the Life Strategies team discovered that CDPs are less likely to discuss self-employment with clients if they themselves don’t feel knowledgeable enough about self-employment to have those conversations. This is perplexing: CDPs can’t possibly be knowledgeable about every career, yet most feel confident supporting clients considering a wide range of options.

Why is self-employment treated differently? Is a separate level of expertise required to support clients exploring self-employment?

Here are five reasons why CDPs may want to learn more about self-employment... Read More

Monday, April 1, 2013

10 Tips for Creating a Strategic Online Presence

by Microsoft ClipArt
Your online presence could be the difference between a booming business and declaring bankruptcy.  Find out how to build your online presence strategically with the tips below.  Access this Tip Sheet  in pdf format on our website.

1. Know why it’s important. Your online presence (i.e., the combined existence of information about you on the internet – your “brand”) is influenced by what people are saying online. Whether your online presence is big or small, correct or incorrect, negative or positive, you can either choose to influence what is being said about you or not. Google yourself to find out where you stand.

2. Have a strategic plan. Begin with the end in mind by knowing what you hope to accomplish. Use a SMART goal framework to help guide your actions to achieve results. Carefully consider what platforms will get you there – you’ll need to select the right tools to get the job done.

3. Evaluate ethical considerations. Know what relevant ethical codes and standards of practice guides have to say about social media and online interaction. Pay close attention to confidentiality, handling emergencies, netiquette, and spamming legislation.

4. Brand yourself, consistently. Take time to put together an effective profile including a professional headshot, short bio, job title, branding statement or tag line, and unique username. A consistent profile across all platforms is important; these profiles are an extension of your brand.

5. Be selective. Choose platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+) to meet your needs/goals. Create a home base where all other platforms lead back to (e.g., your website, LinkedIn, blog). Learn which platforms your clients, colleagues, and competition are using and make these your priority. Consider creating profiles on sites you don’t plan on using simply to secure your username.

6. Integrate platforms. Use virtual dashboard tools (e.g., Hootsuite) that will allow you to manage all your social media platforms from one interface. You’ll be able to schedule updates, delegate tasks to team members, and evaluate analytics.

7. Engage often. Make a strategic plan to engage on your top platforms regularly. Although daily is recommended, this may not be feasible for everyone, especially if you’re new to social media. Nevertheless, ensure you’re consistent.

8. Delegate. Remember, you don’t have to do it all. Delegate non-personal tasks (e.g., making website updates, posting status updates you’ve written), but keep those personal interactions (e.g., Facebook conversations) on your list.

9. Ask an expert. When in doubt, ask a social media consultant to help out. He or she can educate you on best practices and engagement strategies, as well as assist with initial profile set-up, profile management, and analytics reviews.

10. Evaluate impact. You won’t know if online engagement is working, if you don’t measure it somehow (e.g., page views, number of followers, referral sources). Eliminate what isn’t working and try something new. Keep an eye out for what’s worked for others and put your unique twist on it.

Written by Miranda Vande Kuyt and Cassie Saunders.