How To Develop a Business Plan



Writing a business plan can be a daunting task. Just like anything else in life, a plan is an essential tool for success. We have all witnessed an under capitalized business shutter up soon after opening. A business plan should tell a compelling story about what you do and why consumers would want to buy your service or product. A good plan is a living document that shows viability and growth and should be updated on regular basis. There are multiple websites and templates on the internet that help organize the process. In addition, the Small Business Association (SBA) offers some good resources to guide you through your journey.

There are various types of  business plans used for different stages of growth. Stages include; start-ups, post launch, line of credit needs and expansion & growth. Determine what stage of your business lifecycle you are facing and tailor your plan accordingly. Consider the audience, are you looking for investors, partners, stakeholders or a line of credit?  Regardless of your lifecycle, a business plan sets you up for success.  

Business Plans should answer a litany of what, who, why and how questions:

  • What is the problem that your business is solving?
  • Why do consumers want your product or service?  
  • What are your key features?
  • How much capital is required?
  • What challenges could impede growth?
  • What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?

 These questions should be answered in sections and clearly articulated for the reader to understand and process. Whether looking for capital or seed money,  defining business objectives and goals in a logical and disciplined way will make the difference between success and failure.  There are several standard sections that must be included, the outline provided illustrates a framework to get started. 

The business plan framework is very simple, and outline in this graphic:

The Final Steps:

8. Funding

Why should a bank or investor help you? How much do you need? When will you be able to pay it back? What is the investor going to get out of the deal?

Key Inclusions & FAQ’s

  • How long will the cash or requested funding you receive last? What will it cover in terms  of growth. What type of funding are you requesting? Debt, Equity, Angel?

9. Appendix

This is an as needed section but you should have it organized in case a lender asks.  

Key Inclusions & FAQ’s

  • Include legal paperwork, letters of reference, customer testimonials, permits, contracts, leases, attorneys, accountants and your business manager.

Now that the framework is in place, start writing and don’t stop until the plan is done. When presenting to investors tell a story that sells your business idea simply and succinctly.  Describe how you make money and what the best thing about your product or service is. The foundation you establish today will be rewarded tomorrow.


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Amping Up Your Positioning

 Amping Up Your Positioning

By: Jodi Cross

Recently I heard an interview with Brian Cornell, Targets new CEO about how he plans to reposition the retail giant moving forward. Mr. Cornell, stated that Target was “going back to the basic core values” that made Target a success. Target will once again deliver on their brand promise and tagline, “Expect More, Pay Less and strive to cool again.”  In the interview, Cornell specifically mentioned the brand pillars that made Target a success. They included; trends and fashion, design and style, wellness solutions and customer service.  Under the former CEO, Target appeared to have lost focus and tried to compete with Walmart on price and the addition of an expanded grocery product line. 

I am not only a brand marketer but I am a consumer and I shop at Target. Cornell’s comments were music to my ears. This brings me to the power of brand positioning.  Brands like Target create a relationship with their customers. Their pillars and tag line underscore the brand promise and clearly communicate points of distinction that the consumer can relate to.

At CNMI, we have worked with a multitude of brands to develop value propositions, create long-term advantages and target key customer markets to build and grow revenues.

Here are some insightful questions we use to help define our client’s positioning;

  • What do you want your brand to be known for among your target audience? Do you own that positioning?
  • What advantage do you have over your competition?  
  • Does your brand position match your companies KPI’s and vision?
  • Are your branding goals realistic and attainable?
  • Does your brand relate to the consumer on an emotional level?
  • Does your brand positioning contribute to long-term growth?

To determine the answers to these crucial questions, CNMI conducts a collaborative stakeholders meeting during which we come to mutually agreed upon conclusions and action items. Then we work toward crafting a positioning for your product and/or service.

Here are some key elements to consider when crafting your positioning;

  • Your positioning should differentiate your brand from the competition. The differential cannot be based solely on price or service.
  • Consumer perceptions should play a key role in crafting your position.
  • Consider your audiences, a positioning needs to add value for both consumers and stakeholders.
  • Your brand position must be believable and consistent in all areas.
  • Your product or service position should be easy to communicate and difficult to mimic.
  • Your positioning should match your personality and image and be sustainable over a long-term business cycle.

There are many brands who have gone to or are heading toward the branding graveyard. Radio Shack, Kodak and Blockbuster come to mind. I predict Target will make a strong come back!

If you are interesting in refining or developing your brand positioning, gaining greater market share or driving revenues, contact Jodi Cross at CNMI. We may be reached at or visit for more great marketing ideas.  

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Reputation Management

Today’s consumer is discriminating and demands excellent service. If your company doesn’t deliver on your brand promise, they will let the entire world know about it. So what do you do to manage a negative perception and boost your on-line reputation?

Root Cause- you must address the root cause of the problems. To get an understanding of what is going on behind the scenes, conduct a social media audit. Look at multiple platforms and review sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, Twitter and any other sites that impact your business. Review the comment and bucket or categorize them into common cause areas. This exercise will show you the pain points. Perhaps you have shipping complaints, cleanliness or quality issues or poor customer service comments. Next, prepare to address the various deficiencies with the appropriate division heads.

Leverage Staff Buy-in-once you have your bucket list complete, assemble your team. Run through the exercise showing the buckets and common complaints. Have an open conversation to determine if you need to adjust written standards, define if job tools are missing or set up new training protocols.  Create a plan that starts with stakeholder buy in and accountability. The end game is to deliver excellent quality. Once the stakeholder team has developed an actionable plan, take it to the staff in the form of a We Can Do It meeting. Then monitor results weekly and monthly for progress.

Ask your guest to write review. Now that you have presumably turned a corner, don’t be shy about asking for reviews. If you know a particular customer has had a great experience ask them to comment. Send, thank you e-mails with links to review sites for easy access.

Good Quality and Quantity. Build up your positive reviews and your popularity rating will improve.  Many of the sites work off an algorithm system for prioritizing. Remember, you’re only as good as your last review, so keep up the accountability on the back-end.

Senior Managers should respond to negative reviews.  Use the process to help identify ongoing customer issues and pain points. I know several managers who do an audit quarterly just to learn about operational deficiencies.

For a complete Social Media strategy and tactical marketing deployment suggestions contact;

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Planning Overtakes Procrastination

Planning Overtakes Procastination

By: Jodi Cross

Check Mate! I have declared war on procrastination! The piles have been building for months and my “to do” lists have a list of their own but nothing seems to get done. The key to ending the madness is planning.

Start by organizing your to-do lists and make priorities:

Make a list and write items down in categories

  • Breaking things into Personal or Professional action items


Think of issues as:

  • Critical-these are things that must be done in an urgent time frame or their will be consequences.
  • Important-these items are action that must be taken but there are not   urgent consequence.

Layout tasks on your actual calendar

  • Schedule action items into small tasks.
  • Set deadlines and stick to them.

Avoid getting caught in the perfect trap 

  • Perfectionists can be the biggest procrastinators of all, it is part of their winning formula. Instead focus on progress.

Minimize Interruptions and distractions

  • Set a time to get projects done. Check your emails during certain windows during your day to avoid distractions.
  • Compartmentalize work flow and return calls later. Stays focused on projects and see them through. Once a task is completed check your email list and return your calls during set times throughout the day. This will make your time more productive.

Build in rewards

  • Think about big and small rewards you can give yourself if you finish a project.
  • Use positive, pleasurable outcomes to motivate you to complete a project.
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When Did Ethics Become Subjective?

When Did Ethics Become Subjective?

By: Jodi Cross

You may have heard the old saying…It’s not what you do when someone is looking, it’s what you do when no one is looking that defines your moral character.  

How did the ethical balance in our society get so out of control? Do ethics still matter; are they relevant or subjective? Ethics are a standard of moral behaviors that are accepted by society as right versus wrong. They guide us, define our character and help us make the right choices. Then why the Ponzi schemes, corporate CEO resignations and  Martha Stewart going to jail for insider trading? All of this can’t be a good thing! Has greed commandeered our ethics? It seems like this generation doesn’t see any real moral absolutes and they tend to make decisions based on their situation. Which is to say, if it fits their lifestyle then why not do it?

Situational ethics has created a moral decay that is pervasive in our society today. People can be caught doing something and still lie about it, all while justify and blaming it on someone or something else. In theory, people agree about what is right and wrong, things like honesty, courage, respect for life are clearly right and cheating, lying, and stealing are wrong. So how did we get where we are today? 

Ethics is more than dealing with the legal consequences of your actions it is about how you feel about yourself when you do something that is ethically questionable. Better yet, ask yourself, would you want someone to do the same thing to you? People may be above the law and not get caught but we should never abandon ethics.

Ethics is something that should be ingrained in us. It is about how we treat one another. My parents modeled it every day by providing guiding values, and making us accountable for our choices.   Our forefathers decreed ethics as a self-evident truth, Moses brought down the commandments, not the suggestions. It is time we get a grip and stop sliding down the slippery ethical slope laced with justifications and excuses. Choosing the ethical solution isn’t always easy, that’s why it’s called an moral dilemma.  I believe if we all tap into our guiding compass we will pick the right path and one we can be proud of. Perhaps that will start a chain of events that will bring us back on course.  

Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at or

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What’s In A Name?


Whether naming a person or a product the power of naming has been immortalized for centuries in the bible, through poetry and in rites of passage. Choosing the appropriate name is vitally important, nothing is used more than a name. Take my name for example, in Hebrew Jodi translates to bright, lively and social. Of course there was no way of knowing this when my parents named me but I would say my name does suit me. In some cultures they have a naming ceremony after a baby is born. Naming is taken so seriously in Senegal for example, that they wait a week to observe the baby’s characteristics, temperament and look at the shape of any birthmarks to determine the best name for the child.

Selecting a name plays a critical role in influencing buying decisions of products as well. A great name can enhance a company’s brand appeal, while a poor name can weaken an otherwise excellent brand. When it comes to names, brands only get one chance to make a good first impression. The name must capsulate the features and benefits of a product in a way that the consumers can relate to and understand.

At CNMI, when we develop a new name for our clients, we start with an idea generation session. As we go through our process we consider both internal and external criteria along with aspirational and symbolic qualities. 


  • Ownership
  • Personality
  • Distinction
  • Reputation
  • Differentiation
  • Retention
  • Positioning
  • Share of mind


  • Company self-awareness
  • Culture
  • Alignment
  • Cohesion
  • Individualization
  • Relationship
  • Bonding 

When determining a naming protocol, companies need to examine their target audience and key drivers, as well as how well the name resonates in tone and personality. Once this is done, consider how the name might be abbreviated and look at abstract uses. For example, Chevrolet employees are responsible for calling their vehicles Chevy. At first, management forbid the abbreviated but now it is consider a more modern way to describe their brand. People and companies spend thousands of dollars and multiple hours on the process of naming. Apparently Shakespeare was wrong when he wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” If a rose had been called a Monkshood instead, which means deadly foe, would we love it just the same?

For assistance with naming or marketing projects contact Jodi Cross at

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