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Albert & Comfort Ocran

A Guide To Preparing Business Plans

Monday, 06 May 2013 08:00 | Filed Under: Springboard Blog
A business plan is a written document prepared by an entrepreneur or business partners that describes the goals and objectives of the business along with the steps necessary for achieving those goals. For a start-up business it usually covers a three to five year period. Preparing a business plan is one of the most useful things a potential entrepreneur can do. It is therefore recommended for all entrepreneurs, not only to have one, but also, to personally get involved in crafting it.

You do not need to be a management consultant or accountant to prepare a good business plan. What you need is a commitment to thoroughly investigate the business concept, decide how you will operate it, and document these in a systematic, logical way. Preparing the plan involves gathering information about your company, the industry and the market in which you wish to operate as well as the formulation of an effective strategy to guarantee success. The 15 key questions to answer or explore in preparing an effective plan for your business (whether you are going for a loan or not) are:

  1. INTRODUCTION
  2. The first step in preparing a business plan is to set out clear, long term goals for your organisation. It is imperative for every entrepreneur to visualise his or her business in the future. This future is encapsulated in vision and mission statements, which become drivers for the business. For instance, one could say:

    We seek to become market leaders in the provision of comprehensive decoration services to corporate organisations and churches.

    Or

    We want to be the preferred bank for publicly-owned and multinational companies in Ghana by 2020.

  3. DESCRIPTION OF BUSINESS
  4. It is helpful to provide the name of the business as well as its registration details. This will include its registration number, the nature of business the company is registered to practise as well as a brief history and performance of the company since its inception (if applicable). It is important to choose a name for your business that will give it a strong unique identity and increase your acceptance by the target market you are trying to reach. Avoid names that have divisive and sectarian connotations that may easily isolate a segment of society. Also focus on a name that will still be relevant after the first few years. It is easy to create a good corporate identity if your name is catchy and is easy to remember. For the benefit of external stakeholders, it is important to include a brief profile of the business owners or partners. This is helpful in assuring others about the background and experience of the promoters and their suitability for the said business. That confidence is necessary for any support you may require for your plan.

Dangerous Choices, Dire Consequences!!!

Friday, 14 December 2012 12:00 | Filed Under: Springboard Blog

A newspaper once reported the pathetic story of a young man who chose to sleep in his air-conditioned car because he could not stand the heat indoors as a result of power failure. The problem was that because the car was packed in a locked garage, the oxygen in circulation was slowly replaced by carbon monoxide from the exhaust fumes while he slept. Because the gas is scentless and lethal, he ended up being slowly poisoned without even realising it. The next morning, his neighbours found him dead in the same position in which he had been enjoying his sleep.

Your ignorance about the repercussions of making poor decisions will not eliminate the threat they pose. That is why it is prudent to carefully consider all choices and be adequately informed about their outcomes. Decisions like this can be called “Silent killers” because they stifle your dream without struggling with you. These could be choices, habits or negative associations that you hardly perceive as inimical to your progress. Until you find them and flush them out of your life, you could be slowly suffocating to death. Your vision may be dying slowly while you sleep unawares. Take a critical look at your life today. Which areas have you allowed compromises and made questionable choices that could be eating away at your destiny. Are you living a double life with the whole world seeing one part of you while you carefully disguise the rotten part? Confront it today!!!

Let us examine some of the most commonly-made mistakes that often lead to expensive consequences in our lives and careers.

  1. Running Away. Many people have chosen to run away from all the things that could contribute to their success and fulfilment. There are people who have abandoned their spouses, children, good friends, their career and even their faith in God and gone off after strange desires or relationships. Such people can be said to be perpetually running away from themselves. Are you pursuing your real job or calling or are you living with a borrowed identity and struggling with something that is supposedly more prestigious, socially acceptable or well-paying.

    There are people who may be doing what should be their main job part time while they do something else full time. Such people may just need to switch roles between what they do as a hobby and what they do primarily for a living. You can never become great or exceptional spending your life outside the place of your unique assignment. If you run someone else’s race, you will always play second fiddle to them and never find fulfilment. The sad reality is that very often, people like that eventually find their real passion much later and live the rest of their lives with a sense of regret.

How to Bounce Back From Mistakes & Poor Choices

Friday, 07 December 2012 12:00 | Filed Under: Springboard Blog
How to Bounce Back From Mistakes & Poor ChoicesRussian legend, Leo Tolstoy in his book, 'How much land does a man need?' told a gripping story about the danger of making wrong choices and the potentially harmful effects on one's life. This adaptation of the original version will help bring out some important lessons. A young man called Pahom worked as a farm labourer for years and managed to lease a small parcel of land to start his own farm. After a while, he heard about another place where farm land was sold on freehold basis and far cheaper than where he was. He sold off his lease and travelled several days to the new place where he bought a parcel ten times bigger than he previously owned and started afresh.

After one year of operation, Pahom had successfully cultivated and harvested his first fruits. He worked even harder and was able to double his holdings. The townsfolk liked him and land owners were willing to continue doing business with him on even more favourable terms. Pahom on his part kept looking at what large tracts some of them owned and wondered why he had so little. He told himself several times that life was unfair.

One day, a traveller told him about the land of the Bashkirs, a beautiful haven in the faraway western plains, near the point where the sun set. This was a place where an unlimited amount of land was sold by its owners for just a thousand roubles to anyone who wanted to work on it. The more the stranger described this awesome place, the more convinced Pahom became. The very next day, he hurriedly sold his entire land to his workers and set off to find this paradise.

After months of travel, he finally arrived and met the elders of the Bashkirs. To his surprise, they confirmed the deal and offered him as much land as he wanted on the most fertile tract he had ever seen in his life in return for a thousand roubles. There was only one condition; they would sign the papers and handover any portion of land that he could totally encircle before sunset. "Is that all?" Pahom asked. The old folks quietly nodded their heads. "Just one attempt and if you fail, you get nothing." The Bashkirs replied in unison. He looked at their calm demeanour and simple dressing and wondered if they knew the value of what they had. He could not believe anyone could be so stupid. Both parties agreed to do the deal the next day. Pahom couldn't sleep that night. In the course of the night, he drifted off to sleep and dreamt that he had died and the devil was standing over him laughing. He woke up with a start but immediately shrugged it off. Nothing could stop him now. After years of waiting, he was finally there.

The next morning, they all met on a hill. The Chief and elders of the Bashkirs were in high spirits. After exchanging greetings and marking the starting point, Pahom set off. He went at a fast steady pace towards the east where the land looked finest. As he moved, he kept estimating how many kilometres he had covered and how much he could do with so much land. This was definitely the opportunity of his lifetime. By noon, he was tired and hungry and paused to chew some biscuits and drink from the water bottle tucked in his belt. He had covered so many kilometres and was truly amazed at his strength.

Just as he was contemplating turning back, he spotted a river flowing through a portion that was even greener and seemed more fertile than all he had seen so far. He set off at a canter to try and clear that portion for some rice cultivation he had always dreamt about. By two in the afternoon he had covered that entire patch and was ready to turn. Totally exhausted and weak, he turned in the direction of the hill and set off. Just then it occurred to him that he had used eight hours to get there and had only four hours to get back. Pahom panicked for the first time that day.

He took off his knapsack and also threw away his coat along with his shirt, water bottle and any other weight and began to run as fast as he could towards the starting point. He felt dizzy and blistered all over but something inside him propelled him on. After three hours, he saw the hill in the distance and spotted the Bashkirs standing just where he had left them. The sun had begun to set and he wondered for a moment whether he would make it before it disappeared behind the hill. He threw his shoes off his blistered feet, shut his bloodshot eyes and began to stagger towards the hill.

With ten minutes to go, Pahom stumbled and crashed to the ground. He could see the top hazily but just could not make the final hundred metres left. He thought about the dream and it did not sound so strange anymore. Through the sweat and tears, he could see the elders waving some papers at him. That seemed to energise him a little and he forced himself to crawl on all fours as fast as he could. Sadly, with only ten metres to go, Pahom collapsed once again and this time did not move. As the blood flowed from his mouth, the elders and spectators rushed to him and surrounded him. As the sun set, he opened his eyes for the last time and saw them grimly shaking their heads. The Bashkirs exchanged knowing looks and carried his shattered body off to the public burial ground. They buried him in an ordinary grave only six feet long. That was how much land he actually needed.

Pahom's story will resonate with many of us as we look at our own lives. He wanted the best for himself, was willing to do what it took and was also prepared to break out of his comfort zone. The biggest challenge for him however seemed to be determining what was enough at any point. He obviously showed some indiscretion and poor judgement at certain key points in his career. He also failed the planning test in respect of estimating the distance and the requirements for covering the journey in and out, an error that finally ended his dream. Perhaps, one other choice that could also be called into question was his decision to make a new career move whenever he seemed to be settling down and prospering in one.

Whatsoever A Man Sows...
Life is full of choices and decisions. Every day we make decisions; some major, some minor and others totally trivial. We decide how far we want to reach, what we want to achieve, where we want to live and who we want to do things with. We also make less important decisions about what to eat for lunch, what to wear, when to wake up and which means of transport to use on a daily basis. Every decision we make gets us either closer to our dreams or further away from them. We are where we are today because of the decisions we made yesterday. By the same token, the decisions we are making today are helping to construct the life we would have tomorrow. Looking back at your life, you are likely to remember some decisions you made that you remain very proud of. There will also be others buried deep in the crevices of your mind that you would rather not remember; obvious mistakes that make you wonder what you were thinking when you made them.

Every choice has its own consequences. Whatever we sow, we would also reap the fruits thereof. Whereas our right choices bring us progress, joy and fulfilment, the poor ones take us backwards and leave us with pain and disappointment. Some of the poor choices we make have long lasting effects that are difficult to recover from. Some people curse themselves every morning on their way to work. They hate what they do for a living and know they do not belong there; but find themselves doing it anyway because they either feel they have no alternatives or are not willing to try anything else.

To be continued

How to Win the Battle in the Mind

Friday, 30 November 2012 12:00 | Filed Under: Springboard Blog
To successfully implement the process of changing your life and positioning you for continuous progress, you need to take charge of the mental processes that govern your life. The following could serve as pointers as to how to win the mental battle:

  1. Be the Consular-General of your Mind. All successes in life start with the twelve-pound mass sitting between your shoulders. The most important battles of life are either won or lost in the mind. Persistently negative thoughts trigger a chain of negative outcomes or actions while a trend of positive thoughts attracts positive results. A Consular Officer is typically stationed at a country's foreign embassy or entrance ports. His or her role is to grant entry visas to those who qualify and to refuse entry to unwanted guests. If your mind or thoughts are that important, then you literally need to take charge of its doorway like a consular or military sentry to determine what goes in and what doesn't. The good news is that you have absolute control over your thoughts. Proverbs 4:23 confirms this by urging us to "Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." Your mind is the nerve centre or computer of your life's operations. And the principle is consistent: Garbage in Garbage Out (GIGO).
    Whenever you see negativity approaching, block it from afar and deny it entry. When you find yourself thinking negative or restricting thoughts, show them the red card or better still, lift up your flag and replace the 'non-performing' thought with a more positive one. On the other hand, create opportunities for positive thoughts to consistently flood your mind. Surround yourself with resources and people that have the capacity and penchant to feed your mind. The friends you hang out with, the books you read, the music you play and the sermons or messages you listen to all contribute to lifting you up. Consistently making positive declarations or audibly repeating the scriptures to yourself in the mornings are great ways to set the tone for positive thoughts throughout the day. When all is said and done, guarding your heart simply comes down to granting entry visas to all positive thoughts and denying entry to all negative thoughts.

  2. Cultivate An Entrepreneurial, Success-Oriented Mentality. Decide to adopt a productive, entrepreneurial and positive mental outlook on life. A person with that kind of attitude chances upon a pile of scrap metal and sees the makings of a wonderful sculpture. He or she drives through an old slum and sees a new housing development. Entrepreneurs see opportunities in all areas of life. To be enterprising is to keep your eyes open and your mind active. It's to be skilled enough, confident enough, and creative or disciplined enough to seize opportunities that emerge, regardless of the circumstances.

    A person with an enterprising attitude says, "Find out what you can before action is taken." Do your homework. Do the research. Be prepared. Be resourceful! Do all you can in preparation for the opportunities ahead! Enterprising people always see the future in the present. They always find a way to take advantage of a situation, rather than be burdened by it. They are not lazy and do not wait for opportunities to come to them; instead, they rather go after opportunities.

Manifestations & Effects of the Unproductive Mind

Friday, 23 November 2012 12:00 | Filed Under: Springboard Blog
Why do some people live with lots of negative thoughts? Why do some develop mindsets that militate against their efforts at sustained progress and success? How do people get to become so pessimistic, suspicious, angry, bitter or defeatist in their outlook on life? We shall now examine the origin of some of these unproductive thoughts, how they operate and their impact on our lives.

  • One-Dimensional Thinking. Many of us have our minds dominated by rigid and repetitive thought patterns. We sometimes get so caught up in the issues that dominate our locality and culture that we end up trapped in a localised worldview with very little relevance on the global landscape. The world is much bigger than your small community and you must make a commitment to understand how things are done within the wider context. In that regard, people who invest in learning new languages, building capacity, specialising in their fields of endeavour and appreciating globally acceptable norms and practices will definitely increase their worth.

Reprogramming Your Mental Software

Friday, 16 November 2012 12:00 | Filed Under: Springboard Blog

During the era of the California gold rush, two brothers sold all they had and went prospecting for gold. They discovered a vein of the shining ore, staked a claim, and proceeded to get down to the serious business of getting the gold ore out of the mine. All went well at first, but then a strange thing happened. The vein of gold ore disappeared! They had come to the end of the rainbow, and the pot of gold was no longer there. The brothers continued to pick away and spent lots of resources trying to relocate the ore, but without success. Finally, they gave up in disgust.

They sold their equipment and claim rights for a few hundred dollars, and took the train back home. Now the man who bought the claim hired an engineer to examine the rock strata of the mine. The engineer advised him to continue digging in the same spot where the former owners had left off. And three feet deeper, the new owner struck gold. A little more persistence and the two brothers would have become millionaires.

Another interesting story is told of two frogs that fell into a bucket of milk. Both tried to jump to freedom, but the sides of the bucket were steep and no firm foundation could be created on the surface of the liquid. Seeing little chance of escape, the first frog soon despaired and stopped jumping. After a short while it sunk to the bottom of the bucket and drowned.

The second frog also saw no likelihood of success, but it never stopped trying. Even though each jump seemed to reach the same inadequate height, it kept on struggling. Eventually, it began to notice that the persistent efforts had begun churning parts of the milk into butter. Energised by this, it continued to consistently jump and stir until it was finally able to stand on the now-hardened surface of the milk and leap out of the bucket.

A third and even more timeless story with similar lessons is that of a little donkey that worked on a very large farm. This donkey was a very hard worker, and was very much appreciated by its master who knew he could count on it do all manner of odd jobs and farm duties.

One day while hard at work, this donkey fell into a deep pit that the farmer had been digging to use as a well. The donkey cried and cried, and the farmer frantically tried to figure out a way to get the donkey out of the deep hole. However the sides were just too unstable to lower someone down with a rope to tie around the donkey. Moreover, as the donkey was panicky and thrashing about, the farmer had the additional concern of one of his farm hands getting injured and stuck down the pit.

Finally, with a heavy heart, the farmer decided it was best to bury the donkey and put it out of its misery. So he and several of his farm hands started shovelling dirt back into the pit. However, after a few minutes of shovelling, the farmer noticed something. The donkey was shaking off the dirt and stomping it into the ground below him. As it dawned on the farmer what was happening, he called the rest of his farm hands to pour in shovel-full after shovel-full of dirt. The donkey stomped it all into the ground making the hole shallower by the minute. Soon the well became nearly filled with dirt and the donkey climbed out to the great relief of the farmer and his workers.

Your dream or goal for a great future will require diverse resources to become a reality. Some of these may be readily available while others will require significant effort to marshal or mobilise. For every project you undertake, you first need to decide on the resources needed for each level of the plan, and then proceed to find what is needed. As you try to find the intellectual, physical, financial and mental resources to help you reach the highest level, the following tips may be a helpful guide:
  • Start with the little you have. Nothing is too small to make a difference. Many times you have nothing but your dream or a strong desire in your heart. Even when you manage to mobilise some resources, they fall far short of what is required. The challenge is that many of us spend so much time looking at what is unavailable that we fail to see what we already have. Imagine Jesus’ disciples complaining in Mark 6 about the lack of food and casually acknowledging that all they had was a small boy with five loaves and two fishes at a time when they needed to feed five thousand men. Little did they know that the little seed was enough for a miracle? So you want to build a house, have a wedding or start a business and are worried because you have no capital, no inheritance and no one to call upon for help? Start from somewhere with the little that you have and you will experience the power of multiplication as you faithfully work with little and trust God to bless it.
A group of waiters had been complaining about their low incomes and the prospects of a weekend with empty pockets when a modestly dressed old man entered their restaurant. As he made his way towards the corner table, almost every one of them shied away reckoning that he would waste their time and deny them the opportunity to engage more 'financially-viable' clients.

Only one kind waiter out of the lot bothered to walk over to him. The old man gave her a wry smile and proceeded to make his order, interrupting himself several times to ask her about herself and how she was doing on the job. Even though she felt a sense of urgency, she indulged the old man and served him as best as she could. By the time he finished his meal, some of her colleagues were giggling in the corner about what a pain he had been. The old man said thank you and waved goodbye as he walked away. As she cleaned up after him, the waiter was surprised to find hidden in the napkin, a note written at the back of his folded receipt. She was pleased to have served the old man and had not really been expecting anything from him. She was even more shocked to find, wrapped up in the little sheet, five crisp GHc100 notes. She let out a cry of unbelief that brought all her colleagues running to her side. Who could this man be? She turned the note and read the following message:

"Dear Sharon, it was a real pleasure meeting you today. I am convinced that people like you are the reason why my restaurant chain has been so profitable over the years. Your manager mentioned that he had an exceptional waiter who was due for promotion but I asked him to let me find out who it was by myself. I will be truly honoured if you would agree to take up an appointment as manager of the large branch we are opening in the new mall across the city."

What would have happened if Sharon was in a bad mood that day? What if she had allowed herself to be discouraged by her friends? Would the owner of the restaurant have made the offer if his experience contradicted the reports he had heard and his expectations about the young lady? Can you imagine how those other waiters would feel after they read the note? Would you say Sharon was lucky? Looking at your own life, how many times has your opportunity passed by you dressed in 'old men's clothing' without you recognising it. As you seek the resources you need to achieve your dream, remember that one encounter can make a real difference. One little act of kindness, one assignment done with extra care or a little show of support to someone going through a crisis could unlock a door you may never have dreamt about.
A young man had for many years asked his rich father to buy him a car as his eighteenth birthday present. He wanted the car so badly and went all out to convince the old man about the type of car he preferred and how much it would cost. On the morning of his birthday, he was shocked when his father gave him a small package which apparently contained a Bible. This wasn’t what he had had hoped for and even in his wildest imagination, he hadn’t bargained for this. He could not hide his disappointment and promptly dumped the partially unwrapped Bible in the corner of his wardrobe.

Twenty years later, the old man died. On the night of his burial, as the now middle-aged man was reliving the highs and lows of his relationship with his father, he felt a twinge of guilt that he had not done enough to show appreciation to the old man during his lifetime. At some point, he remembered the car that never was and climbed up to fetch the Bible that had been the ‘unwelcome’ substitute. The parcel was pretty much as he had left it many years ago; partially opened. As he wiped off the dust and opened the Bible, a sealed envelope fell out. He opened it and found out to his amazement, a cheque for the exact amount he needed for the car two decades earlier.

Tears flowed down his face as he thought about how unjustifiably angry he had been at his father and how long the old man must have quietly endured the pain of seeing his ungratefulness. As he looked into the Bible, he found the page from which the envelope had fallen marked with his father’s unmistakeable handwriting. The verse he had circled sent a most important message to the young man.

‘Ask and ye shall be given, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you.’ Matthew 7:7

No matter how disappointed or ashamed you are about your past, no matter how angry or bitter you feel today and how justified you think you are, you've got to move on and finish the race. Winners do not quit halfway up their mountain. Whether it is a mountain you're climbing or a race you are running, you need to finish it. Here are a few keys to enable you deal with setbacks and disappointments and move on:
  1. Draw Strength from your Vision. In part one of this series, we shared the story of Sean Wisedale and his personal triumph over Mount Everest. In the face of the many difficulties he faced along the way, the beautiful picture of the highest snow-capped peak sitting gloriously in the twirling clouds must have served as an inspiration for him every morning and reminded him that he must get there. Whatever you are aiming at or aspiring to achieve can be an Everest summit for you. Keep the picture of the business you want to open one day, the lump sum you seek to raise through your investments or the heights you wish to attain in your spiritual walk before you always. Let that vision or ultimate end inspire you to keep going in spite of whatever you have faced or may even face in future. Whenever you feel tired and faint, keep running and focus on the Lord God who is your strength.
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