5 Tips for a Great Business Plan (That You Won’t Find Anywhere Else)

By: SBA T.H.R.I.V.E Subject Matter Expert Aaron Udler

Small Business Tips

POSTED: 2 August 2022


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Business plans are tough. Whether you are starting a new business or purchased an existing business, having an organized business plan helps. As I always tell my staff, “Organization and communication win championships.” Below are 5 of my tips to help you build a championship business:

Tip #1 – It’s ok to make mistakes, learn from your mistakes, and make changes to your business plan.

When I first bought my business in 2013, I bought a sinking ship (it’s probably why I got such a great deal). All I knew is that we needed cash and we needed it fast. So I started offering IT testing services for various national companies. These companies would pay us $5-$10 per exam. On average, we were generating about $1,500/month. Not a ton of money, but I figured for little effort, it paid about 35% of my administrative assistant’s monthly salary. But, over time, I came to realize that the time my administrative assistant was spending to proctor these exams, took her away from helping me with significantly higher profit margin projects. I made a mistake, learned from my mistake, cancelled offering testing services (unless we have an intern in the office, which keeps them busy), and refocused my administrative assistant’s time to more profitable work.


Tip #2 – Know your competitors and know your market.


I always like finding out who my local competitors are, then reach out to their CEOs and offer to have lunch with them. Knowing your competitors can help create a friendly competitive environment as well as help create partnerships down the road. I remember starting out and our largest local competitor asked me to lunch. During lunch, we hit it off. This was about 10 years ago, and since that time, we have helped each other with dozens of projects. Plus, when we both compete on the same project or RFP, we often times call each other and ask “did you get it?”

Knowing your competitors also allows you to know your market. What can you do differently than your competitors to stand out? How can you tweak your product or service offerings to increase your customer base? For example, I own a technology training company and we educate employees on how to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other Microsoft applications. One way we stand out from our competitors is that we create and own our own training content, which has also proven more cost effective for us. Our competitors typically purchase content from content providers, who assign a “license” for each manual that gets distributed. Other competitors email out a PDF of content they own, which means they lose their Intellectual Property (IP) and ultimately clients buy less training since they already have the content in PDF format. After researching what our competitors were doing, we decided to leave our training materials in the “public domain” on a website that is locked down.Our clients can’t copy/paste or print our training materials to protect our IP, but it also simplified access for our clients’ virtual classes during COVID.


Tip #3 – If you can’t make money with your friends, who can you make money with?


Friends are typically “low hanging fruit” when you are in business. Friends are easy to talk with and will almost always help you out. When I first bought OfficePro, my first “new” client was my previous employer (which was a trade association). My buddy Marc who worked in the membership department loved the idea of offering Microsoft end-user training to the association’s members. He asked me how much for a 1-hour session. I told him how about $50? He laughed at me and said we’ll do $1,000! This really helped me and made me look like a hero when I first started at OfficePro.

Also, several of my clients over the years have become friends. In addition to doing business with each other, we hang out after work hours and rely on each other for various forms of guidance. I remember meeting Tom from Long Island in 2016 at a tradeshow in Arizona. The following week, I offered to meet him at his office for a presentation to him and his boss. They both loved the service we were offering and things really started taking off! But in 2019, Tom was let go from his company. So, I invited Tom to join me at a conference in Las Vegas in which the conference pass was $2,500. I told Tom that if he paid for his airfare, that I’d pay for everything else (hotel, conference pass, food, etc). While we were in Vegas, Tom received a job offer from a new company. And as his vendor and friend, he brought both me and OfficePro over with him and has sent us a ton of business. Friends take care of friends.



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Also, several of my clients over the years have become friends. In addition to doing business with each other, we hang out after work hours and rely on each other for various forms of guidance. I remember meeting Tom from Long Island in 2016 at a tradeshow in Arizona. The following week, I offered to meet him at his office for a presentation to him and his boss. They both loved the service we were offering and things really started taking off! But in 2019, Tom was let go from his company. So, I invited Tom to join me at a conference in Las Vegas in which the conference pass was $2,500. I told Tom that if he paid for his airfare, that I’d pay for everything else (hotel, conference pass, food, etc). While we were in Vegas, Tom received a job offer from a new company. And as his vendor and friend, he brought both me and OfficePro over with him and has sent us a ton of business. Friends take care of friends.


Tip #4 – Put a cost model down on paper

This is VITAL to any business plan. You need to know your expenses, your revenue, and the margin between them. Putting all your expenses down on paper is critical. Here’s a quick video I put together of a cost model. https://youtu.be/sLUcpKQ_hh0.


Tip #5 – Have an exit strategy.


Fortunately or unfortunately, life happens. What would happen to your business if you were to die tomorrow? Or what if you are planning on retiring in 2-3 years? Who would you start to train to take over your business? Or maybe your company partners with another company who could acquire your company. Have you had those discussions yet? What about who would handle speaking to your customers and vendors? Lots of thoughts to consider for an exit strategy.

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Article Author

Aaron Udler - SBA T.H.R.I.V.E Subject Matter Expert


Aaron as a certified instructor, systems analyst, and technology manager offers business training, staffing services, and efficient technologies that help clients grow and succeed.

Experienced President with a demonstrated history of working in the tradeshow, computer training/software, and audio/video industries. Skilled in Marketing Management, Sales, Event Management, Market Research, and Fundraising. Strong business development professional with an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business (Duke University).

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