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Thank you for contacting me about your Business.

Rob Cummings - See Rob's Bio

Whatever I do for you will be based on just what you need, and we may make other discoveries.

This page gets us started, saves you money, helps you understand me and my process, (and saves me the time of typing the same thing over and over).

By reading this page, you will already be starting the process, and the process is what develops the ideal solutions - no matter what we end up doing.

I use the Business Plan Worksheet for business plans and other reasons.

If you really know your business, the business plan worksheet is easy - however - many realize they do not completely know the business - and it's more difficult to determine the proper course of action.

The basic concept is to be sure we build on a very firm foundation, the 'soil is tested and stable', and everything we build on this foundation won't later topple.

To build the firm foundation, we shall:

  • assess everything to do with your business

  • minimize liabilities and chances for failure

  • develop smartest methods in every aspect

  • create a blueprint that makes complete sense

  • make best choices from the start

  • make a very compelling argument for this business or what we do

  • decide what we need and what we don't need

  • determine how we're going to make this happen

So let's get started:

I sent you (or will be sending) my Business Plan Worksheet in an email.

The first step is helping me to understand your business, and helping you to get your ideas down on paper. This is done with the Business Plan Worksheet.

Think of me as a good doctor who cares and is trying to assess what the real issues are, and help make the best diagnosis - without rushing to judgment, or prescribing the 'wrong pill'. In the end, no 'medication' may be needed.

Once I am able to understand your unique situation, I help inspire and develop solutions that best suit your needs, and meet your goals and objectives.

The Business Plan Worksheet is the initial 'Patient Interview'.

I am well known for talking clients out of spending money more often than talking them into it. I encourage exploration and inspire discovery to help arrive at best solutions.

My goal is to work with you to develop the most appropriate solutions in all ways possible and with all aspects considered and in every detail.

If you have any questions at any time, please ask.

Thanks very much. ~ Rob.

P.S. You may wish to see my systematic approach to problem solving  >>
(ask me if you have a web Site and wonder about the ads)

Links that may be of interest later on:

  • Some Case Histories >>

  • Business Plan FAQs >>

Please bookmark this page in your 'Favorites' since it is not linked from the Cummings Design web Site.

The Business Plan worksheet helps me understand your business and will help you too. It works for Business Plans and for Marketing Plans (since a Marketing Plan is normally part of a Business Plan). It also covers other aspects like trademarks and other intellectual property.

Making a business work right is tricky.

Everything you overlook or make snap judgment on may cost more and almost always increases liability.

The Business Plan Worksheet looks at everything, though if this is not being done for investors or funding, you can skip the financial questions - if you wish.

I am confident you will very much appreciate the Business Plan Worksheet as you realize how much it helped us:

  • organize thoughts

  • plan for contingencies

  • develop best strategies

  • assess existing processes and plans and improve them

  • identify opportunity

  • position and brand

  • determine appropriate costs

  • assess what may and may not be needed

  • and much more, in every way

Step 1:
Get an overview of Business Plans

If you have never seen a business plan, please do this first...

Please see and study some of the following:

How to Write a Winning Business Plan - from Entrepreneur Magazine

How to Write a Business Plan - from the US SBA

You may understand the concepts and are not seeking funding, though for all, reading the above helps - either as a refresher, or as an educational tool.

Some business plans are for those seeking business loans, yet the very same concepts and level of detail applies if we are creating a business plan as your blueprint for success (without the need for funding).

I am well-known for talking people out of loans and out of spending money where there is any smarter alternative - and often there is.

Step 2:
Open the Business Plan Worksheet.

Open the copy of the Business Plan Worksheet from your hard drive and begin to answer the questions to the best of your ability. You may type directly into the Business Plan Worksheet since it's an editable Microsoft Word document.

About the Business Plan Worksheet, why we do things this way, and why this process is so important to future success.

The Business Plan worksheet will help you assess nearly every aspect of your business - top to bottom - including your direct and indirect competitors.

In the end, after I review it and we work with it and think things through, we may discover that what you thought you wanted and needed was not what you needed - and more often than not, this saves money, time, and avoids risk.

I am a serious thinker, and this is not Business Plan Pro software.

This is an engaging process that always leads to clarity, discovery, and very often less costly and faster ways to achieve goals, objectives, and long term success.

The writing and refinement of your business plan is something we will do together, will take some time, and ultimately will dramatically increase your chances for success - via serious consideration resulting in smartest choices.

If your goal is not a formal business plan yet a blueprint for success, we stop with the worksheet - and use what we learn in the worksheet to develop an action plan.

Fill out the Business Plan Worksheet as completely as you can.

If this is not for a Business Plan seeking funding, you may skip over all of the financial questions, though some you may still wish to address.

This is the way to be sure you're doing things right.

Deceptively simple at first, this same approach works for every size and for every type of company.

This exercise will hurt your brain, then you'll feel better. No pain, no gain.

You hear about 9 out of 10 new business failing. Yours will not be a failure if you think everything through before you even open your doors.

Play the game to the end (meaning develop a brilliant plan with no holes), and every time and in every case, major discoveries are made - though it typically takes several 'rounds' back and forth.

It takes some patience, time, analysis, reflection, research, and lots of thought.

Plan on the plan taking time, then, with a great plan, the 'building' going relatively quickly, and probably at less cost.

In this process, some companies changed their entire approach top to bottom.

Others changed their offerings, or completely changed who they marketed to, and/or completely changed how they market as well as channels of distribution - and others gave up after realizing their plan was not feasible.

After serious contemplation, questioning, and discussion, still others realized they did not need the sales force or office or warehouse they envisioned - and just needed 1/10th the money they thought they would require for the same outcome.

Most consultants and branding people are worried they'll get fired if they're candid.

Discussion of the 'blueprint' or plan doesn't quickly translate to 'building' - and some rush off, build on a weak foundation. Unless very lucky, years later they still see no results - or discover a serious oversight.

I want to put you and your associates in the mind to be inspired.

Everyone has said this gave them a headache at first, then they felt a lot better, then they were truly inspired, and then, since the entire plan and strategy was so well conceived, it worked!

That's the goal. Streamline, analyze everything, make some incredibly great choices and discoveries before we build anything - then build with the smartest plan possible - and stick to it.

Smart blueprints take far more upfront time than shoddy plans, yet, done properly, the plan is 'right' from the start - and years later.

Just a quick story - one of my favorites - take two.

A long time ago, the makers of Alka-Seltzer sold Alka-Seltzer as a single tablet. 

The makers of Alka-Seltzer  came to Jack Tinker & Partners.

Instead of asking Tinker for an ad or catchy slogan, the makers of Alka-Seltzer asked how can we increase sales?

This open-ended question, freedom to think openly, and some extra money and time caused Tinker to think much harder and well beyond the ad or slogan.

Tinker really spent some time and thought about it - on many levels.

Tinker recommended changing the directions on the back of the product packaging to say take two rather than take one. Taking two nearly doubled sales.

Based on a solid foundation and approach, Tinker went on to promote the take two concept with the catchy slogan 'plop, plop, fizz, fizz oh what a relief it is'.

Finally, Tinker promoted Alka-Seltzer as a solution for many other ailments other than headaches - like hangovers or indigestion.

That's the type of thinking I want us to do. The best business or marketing plan is based on great concepts and strategies. While catchy slogans help, the best plans are based on true competitive strategy and brilliant ideas.

Brilliance sometimes comes to mind immediately, but more often than not, takes serious time, thought, and consideration. Businesses fail for many reasons, and we're going to try to avoid failure in every possible aspect. - from the products and services, to the marketing, to the partnership agreements, logistics, and more.

The Alka-Seltzer story is why we're doing this Business Plan Worksheet.

The more we consider and decide now, the better.

Your Business Plan is a 'blueprint'... the more you consider and decide now, the easier the process of building your business will be, with less risk, and greater assurance of success.

Also, the more options, alternatives and contingencies we consider now, the easier it will be later if you have problems getting your business to work.

The Business Plan worksheet can be a little frustrating, but it is extremely thorough. It will cause you (and me) to think about many aspects you (and me) might otherwise overlook - and it's best to think about everything.

The first questions are relatively easy and deceptively simple, however, once you get to the other questions, you will likely wish to change (or refine) your answers to the early questions. This is fine and part of the process.

Simply fill out the Business Plan worksheet as best you can.

If this is for a formal Business Plan for investors or partners:

If the purpose of your business plan is to seek funding or interest investors or partners, keep in mind that bankers and investors and qualified partners will do their very best to find holes in your plan and/or liabilities and/or risks. Also, you do not want to fool yourself and not consider every upside and downside.

Bankers and investors don't like liabilities or risk.

The goal is to write a comprehensive 'story' in your Business Plan that is:

  • Quick to read and follow

  • Intriguing

  • Easily understood by the layman and the industry professional

  • Convincing by making sense 

  • Based upon solid rationale

  • Nearly free of hype and 'hopeful' or promotional statements

  • As brief and to the point as possible

Think of your Business Plan as a case before a judge, and make the strongest case possible - without a great deal of hype.

If your plan is for an existing business, the history of the business and your personal life experience may help you make 'your case' stronger. Other aspects may help as well.

If you have no history and this is a start-up, the case must rely on other similar businesses or concepts - plus - your personal life experience as well as that of others involved (or who we decide should be involved) may be useful in making a 'stronger case' for your business and its success.

Often overlooked, if this is going to be some form of partnership, you likely wish to see this page about partners, and the "Perfect Partners' article.

Even if you are not seeking investors, bankers, or partners:

In your business plan, you are essentially making a case for your business, almost like a legal defense.

In this respect the 'story' in your Business Plan should:

  • Be compelling

  • Have facts substantiated

  • Have strong arguments for success that are nearly undeniable

  • Have a strategy as bullet-proof as possible

  • Include contingencies and options to further insure success

If this is for a Marketing Plan:

Concentrate on the questions that concern your business and your competitors, and your market. What we want to determine is your current status and then find your true competitive advantage. Once we do that, we can decide what to promote, who to promote it to, and how to promote it most effectively.

Regardless of the objective of this Business Plan Worksheet, or Business Plan strategy, our overall goal is to assure the success of your business or concept by thinking everything through very carefully.

Step 3: Fill out the Business Plan Worksheet

After you have filled out the Business Plan worksheet as best you can, please attach your completed Business Plan worksheet to an email and send it to me.

Don't struggle over the writing and proper language - simply answer the questions as clearly and simply as you can - in common language and layman's terms - yet with enough detail to make a strong case in every instance - yet also being completely candid and honest.

Step 4: I analyze and review the worksheet

I will then do an initial review of your Business Plan Worksheet and hopefully begin to help you make it a reality.

I will make initial comments and give initial impressions. I will not candy-coat anything. I will be polite yet very candid. I will offer some things to consider.

Initial impressions are important since I act like an investor or partner.

My initial impressions and questions are very likely to be the same concerns, questions, objections, and other issues that you'll face from others that you present your business plan to in the future.

If you like the way I think and work (as others have)...

"My partners and I like the no nonsense way you approach your job and you brought up points that we would have never thought to address."

...we then continue to send this Business Plan Worksheet back and forth - me commenting and then you commenting - differentiated by comment color. My comments are usually in red while yours are in blue.

The process works almost like a face-to-face discussion, however, everything is documented and everything is primarily done via email. This makes it easy to see progress, and review and revisit things we've discussed. 

Step 5: Refinement and final decision-making

When we feel we have:

  • All the questions answered

  • All the issues resolved

  • Contingencies, options and alternatives

  • A solid plan without holes

I then distill everything we have discussed and agreed upon into a single formal Business Plan document that becomes the first draft. I then send this first draft to you to review. You comment, and, based on your comments and possibly some of my additional thoughts, I develop a second draft.

I do not do the financials. These are handled by your CPA or one we choose.

If this is not for a formal business plan, and instead to create a blueprint for work to come...

We begin work at this stage - using the refined Business Plan Worksheet as our 'blueprint and guide' in execution, and in making decisions regarding execution of tasks as well as criteria by which we judge elements and aspects.

To get to this 5th step may or may not take some time. Normally it takes at least 20 hours of my time, often more. It may involve a partnership agreement.

Much depends on all the aspects we need to cover, how complex your business is, and how prepared you were in the first place.

In other words, if you have all the answers and everything considered, and all I need to do is edit that information and write up a Business Plan based directly upon that information, the process goes faster than if that is not the case.

Other things to know... and the big questions:

Rob Cummings

The most frequently asked questions and answers are:

Q: How long will it take?
A: I can never guess, yet allow you to buy time like a doctor's visit, and proceed at my hourly rate. Count on a minimum of 10 hours for a typical first draft.

Q: When will it be complete?
A: It's complete when it's right. The more you know, the less time it will take, and we'll know it's right when we completely believe we left no objections - and know exactly how to proceed.

Q: What makes you qualified to write business plans?
A: 30+ years life experience and my systematic approach and client stories.

Q: Will this hurt my brain to think this through?
A: Yes, I'll inspire brain damage, yet you'll feel much better later.

Please see more Frequently Asked Questions about Business Plans >>

This is an engaging process that will hurt your brain and inspire you.

I take a genuine interest in your success.

I believe in being candid and honest, yet always polite. Still, sometimes I can be overly candid, and then I get fired, though I don't mind since I feel I've honestly done my very best.

We can talk by phone or email (or both) at your option. I find email to be more productive, however, either is fine.

Even if we are simply naming and branding, it's all better with a solid plan.

Please be aware that my normal rates apply for consultation if you choose to have me review your business plan worksheet and concept. My hourly fee for phone time and for answering emails - in 15-minute increments - applies to consultation.

To keep my rates affordable and reduce paperwork clients 'retain and book me' by purchasing hours (or packages) in advance. See how payment works now >>

If you have seen the Cummings Design Site, you likely have an idea of what I do - though you still may be a bit fuzzy about everything I do since I cover a lot.

Please look around Cummings Design. The Site is over 250 pages and you will learn a great deal about me and the way I work by spending some time with it.

The basic idea is that I do not jump to conclusions, do not pour the concrete for the foundation before we know the ground is stable and tested, and make sure that we not only distill your concept to its very essence, but also present it in a way that anyone will understand it, and embrace it.

Plus, if not for investors or partners, yet as a blueprint for success along with risk reduction, once we begin to build anything we determine we need in this Business Plan exercise (and often we'll find less is ultimately needed), we'll know we're building on extremely firm ground - with the smartest strategy in all respects.

If you decide not to continue with me, you may still use the Business Plan worksheet, however... the only thing I ask is that you do not distribute or copy the business plan work sheet I sent you to others since it is my own.

Have more questions?

If your questions are still not answered, please contact Rob.

I look forward to hearing from you! ~ rob.

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