To embrace and acknowledge the contributions to this country by our diverse population, and to honor and celebrate Black and Woman’s History Month, Peter Bonnell on the Dun & Bradstreet Emerging Business team conducted a series of interviews with minority and women business owners. The interviews can be found on Dun & Bradstreet B2B’s Minority-Owned and Women-Owned Business Resource pages.
Developing a business plan is arguably one of the most mentally taxing aspects to starting a new enterprise, but it may be the most essential. Many promising entrepreneurs have exciting, innovative ideas for a business, but find it difficult to develop a strategy and context for their respective industry.
Marketing strategy, competition analysis, financial forecasts and cash flow projections? For many, these are tedious, perhaps even dreadful tasks. That is not the case for Cheree Warrick, however.
Ironically, Warrick didn’t initially plan on starting a business with a core competency in building business plans for others.
“I started my business by accident. My mom needed a business plan in order to receive a bank loan. She asked me to write the plan for her. I have the unique skillset of being able to write and develop financial forecasts.”
“When the bank read my plan, they said it was one of the best they’d ever read. Soon afterwards, others began asking me to write their plans. Hence, my business began.”
Cheree Warrick writes business plans and creates financial forecasts for companies seeking funding from banks and angel investors, under her firm The Profit Partner. She is author of Creating Business Plans that Actually Get Financed – a book that helps entrepreneurs understand exactly what investors want to know before making a commitment. The book and her strategies are praised by numerous angel investors and commercial bankers, including Barbara Corcoran of the hit TV show Shark Tank and Valerie Gaydos – founder of the Angel Venture Forum of D.C.
Cheree’s goal is to help over one thousand companies receive over one billion dollars in funding. Tweet This She has helped clients from numerous industries raise the capital they need for growth.
Growing Her Firm
Managing a business as it grows takes an extraordinary amount of attention and careful consideration, because as the famous John Green quote states, “Nothing ever happens like you imagine it will.” This tells us that even the best-made plans are subject to change, because after all, the business landscape is constantly evolving and responding to market forces.
Every business has “growing pains,” but it’s these experiences that morph and mold the business as it develops.
Warrick shared some of the insights she gained as The Profit Partner blossomed. “During the first two years of my business, I solely relied on networking to bring in clients. In the third year of my business, I began subcontracting for a company that was phenomenal at other types of marketing (SEO, social media, publicity).”
“I began to do the same things they were doing and my business exploded. I realized that most people who need a business plan writer place the keyword in Google, and we needed to be found online.”
As mentioned, there are certainly pains that must be addressed during the initial growth phase for any business and Warrick was not immune to the challenges of running a new venture.
“At one point in our business, I was disorganized. If a prospect called me, I didn’t have a central location (or Customer Relationship Management (CRM)) to place their information. I was reliant on my memory too much. One day, I realized I forgot to call a prospect back and lost a $10,000 deal. Never again! I immediately signed up for a CRM, ordered Dropbox to keep my files organized, and I’ve never forgotten about a prospect again.”
“I have a saying, ‘God cannot bless chaos.’ If our records are disorganized or we spend thirty minutes looking for a file, we’re taking precious time away from serving clients.”
Acknowledging One’s Strengths and Weaknesses in Business
Aristotle famously said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”, and wisdom can be an asset in business.
The wisdom an entrepreneur has is indicative of understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses, which is necessary when building a business plan’s SWOT analysis.
Warrick commented on her introspection, “My greatest strength is my ability to empathize with my clients. They know that their success is my success. My greatest weakness is my desire to control everything. I’m a perfectionist when delivering business plans to clients.”
Warrick also acknowledged that managing her growth had potential to manifest as a weakness, so she was proactive in combating this premonition. “My business has grown so much over the past two years. I’ve had to hire help. I’m working on ensuring quality control without micromanaging my team. I hired an operations consultant who helped me write a procedures manual. I’m focused on shifting some of the writing to my team members so I have additional time for business development.”
She also knew there were opportunities to be leveraged, primarily in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media.
“Focusing on search engine optimization (or being found on Google) gave us the biggest lift. I noticed that our biggest competitors were ranked high on Google.”
“It took a lot of time and patience for us. I write blogs twice a week. I participate in social media and link back to our website. We cleaned up our H1 tags.”
On Mentorship and Advice for Others
Warrick was heavily influenced by an individual with extensive experience across many facets of business. He had a substantial amount of knowledge to impart to Warrick, and she took away many valuable lessons.
“When I began writing business plans, I was mentored by a gentleman who had thirty years of business experience. He had raised hundreds of millions of dollars. He taught me how to think from an investor’s point of view.”
“That insight was invaluable. It helps me deliver the best product possible for clients.”
Warrick wanted to also share some advice for others, which she gleaned from a speech she heard at a seminar. “The speaker said, “You can’t look like a five dollar business and ask your customers to pay $50,000 for your services. That advice stuck with me.”
“The best advice I can give anyone is to look the part. If you’re charging a premium for your services, then have a well-designed website, business cards, and marketing materials. People do judge a book by its cover.”
Her wisdom doesn’t stop at refining the brand or image of one’s venture, but includes the practices inherent to a business’s operations. She believes people have every tool available to them but sometimes simply don’t know how to employ and use them effectively. “I was not maximizing my CRM for close to a year. I had a great tool but was only using 5% of its power. I wish I had more time to learn about the technology platforms that could make me much more efficient.”
Relationship Fostering and Maintenance
Relationships are everywhere, and everyone has them. They’re intimate, they’re social, they’re professional, they’re even spiritual for some.
For Warrick, relationships are among the most important aspects to a professional, specifically as they relate to the community they serve. It’s relationship building that takes precedence to profits in her mind.
“Business is about relationships. The strong my relationships are within the community, the stronger my business is. The more deposits I put into my community relationships, the better my business does. Many times, entrepreneurs look for a quick payday but they don’t belong to any networking groups, work with any civic groups, or help any local non-profits. I do a lot of work without expecting any remuneration.”
She concluded the interview, “I’m amazed how God blesses my company because we aren’t afraid to serve without any expectation of payment.”
Cheree demonstrates how an individual doesn’t necessarily have to have distinct dream in their entrepreneurial efforts. Sometimes all it takes is having an understanding of what you excel at, and then developing that further into a viable business. I wish her the best as she continues to help others achieve their professional dreams.