GoForth and ADLC to deliver Canada’s first online entrepreneurship course for high school

We’re excited to announce our partnership with Alberta Distance Learning Centre to deliver Canada’s first online, mobile entrepreneurship course for high school students! It’ll be launched in September to Alberta to students in Grades 10-12. They’ll have access to video game mechanics, streaming HD videos – and it’s completely mobile, suitable for desktops, tablets and phones.

Calgary Herald’s Mario Toneguzzi wrote an article about the new course in today’s edition, and you can read it here for more details.

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What’s the secret for writing a business plan? There isn’t one

The secret to writing a good business plan is that there is no secret to writing a good business plan. Writing a solid, actionable business plan requires research, planning and execution just like any other small business undertaking.

Business plan = business model + business opportunity

Business plans begin with a business model, which are two very distinct things. A business plan is really just the written execution of a good business model. Find out why a business model is important here.

Of course, business models begin with an amazing business opportunity – which is different from an amazing business idea – don’t get this former professor started! Soon-to-be entrepreneurs find they have a lot to learn about opportunity identification, crafting a business model, writing a knock ’em out of the park business plan and then executing the plan – all while being flexible to respond to changing market dynamics.

Ninety percent of a business plan won’t help you

When I was developing the business concept for GoForth Institute – researching market size, polling small business owners, discovering its market potential – I got to the stage where I had proven the size of the business opportunity and the likely success of an online education program for entrepreneurs. So I stopped writing the business plan and just launched the company.

Typical entrepreneur. Because we had no written strategic marketing, financial, HR or operations plan, we experienced levels of stress that a completed business plan could have prevented. I did complete the business plan, but not until after we launched. Entrepreneurship is an ever-evolving beast, so being as prepared as humanly possible isn’t just a bonus – it’s a necessity.

Need more help? Get your free downloadable one-page business plan outline and a great business plan template on our website.

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2011 is the Year of the Entrepreneur

According to a Globe & Mail article this week, 2011 is the Year of the Entrepreneur. What does this mean, exactly?

Rob Moore, Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, made the designation as a way to bring awareness to the importance of small business, though initiatives to support this have yet to be announced.

At GoForth Institute, we’re tireless supporters of small business owners and hope that the Year of the Entrepreneur does see more government-supported programs and initiatives. However, perhaps the lack of these programs is intentional, motivating entrepreneurs to create their own pathways to innovation. We know it’s difficult, but it’s also not impossible.

Don’t believe us? Check out the skills we teach in our online small business training. We don’t just tell you how to balance your books or how to buy a franchise. We also help entrepreneurs understand where small business creativity comes from. We believe innovation comes from anywhere and everywhere. Our goal is to connect entrepreneurs with resources and tips to help them pull those amazing idea out of their brains and turn them into something great.

What do you think about the Year of the Entrepreneur designation? Do you want official initiatives and programs, or do you think entrepreneurs can innovate all on their own?

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Thoughts on The Pitch, proof of concept and small business scalability

Just back in Calgary from an appearance as a regular panelist on BNN’s The Pitch, a weekly live venture capital pitch show airing Wednesdays at 11:30am EST, 9:30am MST. If you didn’t catch the show, you can stream the January 12 videos from the BNN website.

This week’s pitchers, Warren MacKenzie (Weigh House) and Roger Nahas (Best Body Bootcamp) represented the diversity of the Canadian entrepreneur population. Warren wants to give investors a fighting chance at good rates of return in their portfolios by offering commission-free advice and wealth management services. Roger has built an Ontario-based fitness bootcamp business that he now wants to expand across Canada. Cool.

Different business models and concepts, but I had the same two issues with both businesses. My issues were scalability and proof of concept, both topics we cover in our online small business training.

Small business scalability

The first issue – scalability – refers to the ability of the existing business to grow, and I mean really grow, from one location to many, from one geographic area to several, from hundreds of customers to thousands of customers virtually overnight (which is why investors love technology companies).

Both Weigh House and Best Body Bootcamp need people to scale their businesses – wealth management consultants and excellent personal trainers – to hit a home run. To scale a business that relies on people as a critical factor is tougher to do. Not to say it won’t happen; it’ll be just be harder for Roger and Warren to attract VC money.

Small business proof of concept

The second issue I had with both businesses was “proof of concept,” or displaying a business model that has proven its ability to make revenue and profit. We teach the difference between a business model and a business plan in our online education for entrepreneurs, so if you want to know more you’ll have to buy the course! (I’m in business too!)

At what point is a concept “proven,” you ask? The point at which the new business has a steady supply of customers, returning customers, great customer evaluations and lots of opportunity to grow. And of course, different options for growth such as franchising, market or geographic expansion, international sales, new products, and so on.

Once a business concept is proven, and the ability to “scale” the business to greater revenue is there, you’ll have no problem attracting angel or venture capital investors to help you get there.  The trick is getting to the proof of concept stage. Remember, over half of small businesses don’t get to the second year – they fail before the concept proof stage. Sad.

But then, that’s why we created GoForth – to give the emerging entrepreneur 100 Essential Small Business Skills to help them through start-up and early growth stages of any business – construction and trades, real estate agents, artists, coffee shop owners, dog walkers.  If you’re a small business owner, we can help you succeed.

If you’ve got a great early-stage business and want to appear on The Pitch, shoot me an email!

PS. A little backstory – at the end of the show I mentioned that I was “a little bit of an alley cat” on one of the ideas.  That was a secret shout out to four of my all time favourite University of Calgary students, Allison Onyett (Ally) , Catharine McMechan (Cat), Jalene Ippolito and Heather Baker who I had the pleasure of teaching when I was still an entrepreneurship professor. Today, they are no longer former students, but are friends of mine, and I’m grateful for their love and support.

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