Master the Business Plan

29 Sep, 2011

Welcome to the Work Smarter blog! My hope over the next year is to provide some insights into business information resources (both free and available through the library) as well as provide some resources to help with case studies, job searching and more. We’re off to a new year here at the Desautels Faculty of Management and in the spirit of new beginnings, I thought I’d focus my first blog post on resources for entrepreneurs.

Depending on what sort of information you’re putting into your business plan and what type of product/service/business you’re starting, different resources will be useful to you. The one I want to focus on today is a resource that will be useful for EVERY entrepreneur. I know that sounds like a tall order, but today I want to talk about benchmarking figures and ratios. Although these may not sound particularly exciting, benchmark figures and ratios are great for entrepreneurs starting a new business. These figures help gauge the expected ratios of business costs as well as their profitability of a business in a particular industry.

The first site I want to discuss is called the SME Benchmarking Tool. What’s great: it’s free and it uses real data from small and medium business tax returns in Canada. What’s not so great: it doesn’t get updated frequently.

The breakdown for SME BenchMarking Tool:

What: Database of income sheet data and ratios provided by real Canadian businesses.

Why: Use it to benchmark against other businesses in your industry. For example, if you’re starting up a bowling alley (why not?), you can find out what percentage of total revenue in that industry typically goes to repairs, wages, advertising, insurance etc.

How: It’s pretty straightforward to use, the only thing that need to know is the NAICS code for you industry (NAICS = North American Industry Classification System). You can find the NAICS for your industry here (you can also just browse on the SME Benchmarking website).

Now I mentioned above, what’s great about the SME Benchmarking tool is that it’s based on data from real Canadian SME’s but what’s not so great is that it isn’t updated annually. If you’re looking for more recent information, you can use Annual Statement Studies. This is the same idea as the SME Benchmarking tool except it uses data from American companies and it’s not free (i.e. enjoy this baby while you’re at McGill!).

My other favourite resource for entrepreneurs that often gets overlooked is the Business Plans Handbook. Its title explains it all—it’s a book of sample business plans. While these aren’t actual business plans (i.e. they’re not real companies), they’re useful in helping to layout the basic design and flow of a business plan. You can also check out Bplans.com for more examples.

These are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what resources are available for budding entrepreneurs. More can be found here, here or here. The government wants you to innovate so take let some of these resources guide you on your way.

Feel free to send any questions or comments to: [email protected]

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