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Business Plan Journey

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1. Identifying Your Customer

Starting a company is hard.  Most successful entrepreneurs begin by identifying their customer and figuring out what problem they need solved.  Our innovation experts have collected some of the most popular resources on how to think about doing this.  All of these resources are available at your local Cobb County Library.


Lean Startup by Eric Reis

Most startups fail. But many of those failures are preventable. The Lean Startup is a popular approach being adopted across the globe, changing the way companies are built and new products are launched. Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on "validated learning," rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want.

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp

From three design partners at Google Ventures, a unique five-day process--called the sprint--for solving tough problems using design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers.

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

Every moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won't make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won't create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren't learning from them. It's easier to copy a model than to make something new: doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But every time we create something new, we go from 0 to 1. The act of creation is singular, as is the moment of creation, and the result is something fresh and strange. Zero to One is about how to build companies that create new things. It draws on everything the author learned directly as a co-founder of PayPal and Palantir and then an investor in hundreds of startups, including Facebook and SpaceX. The single most powerful pattern he has noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas

Electronic Resources

Data Axle (formerly ReferenceUSA)

Data Axle is a comprehensive database of businesses in the US and Canada.  If you are building a B2B (business to business) company, it is a great way to build an initial customer list. Search by industry (SIC, NAICS), geography, name, etc.  This is an incredible way to supercharge your research process.


DemographicsNow offers a variety of simple, ready-to-use demographic data reports. Users may customize them by geography, choosing the area that best suits their needs. In addition, users may also run an unlimited number of reports in summary, comparison, or ranking formats.


Using SimplyAnalytics, you can create professional quality thematic maps using 100,000+ data variables from industry-leading data partners. View data by state, congressional district, city, county, ZIP Code, census tract, or block group.  Intuitive reporting tools generate detailed custom reports for any location in the country. Add individual data variables or entire groups of variables and generate a report in seconds, or create a ring study report illustrating the characteristics of the 1-, 3-, and 5-mile radius surrounding your target location.  Search from over 22 million business points from Dun & Bradstreet and add them to a map or a detailed business report to find the best place to locate your business, manage the competition, or identify services. Select specific businesses using any combination of NAICS or SIC codes, legal name, company name, number of employees, total revenue, year started, and more.

Online Learning

LinkedIn Learning

  • Leading with Innovation
    • No company can survive without innovation. Large or small, new or old, for profit or nonprofit, all organizations need to keep morphing to succeed. But how do you nurture nonstop innovation? Strategy experts Anil Gupta and Haiyan Wang outline the core logic of innovation and show how leaders at many companies and nonprofits—including Apple, Amazon, Google and Khan Academy—nurture innovation without losing control.

2. Crafting Your Business Model

Once you’ve figured out your customer, you need to build a business around serving them. The resources below can help you to do this.


Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

Business Model Generation is a handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design tomorrow's enterprises. If your organization needs to adapt to harsh new realities, but you don't yet have a strategy that will get you out in front of your competitors, you need Business Model Generation.

Electronic Resources

Business Plan Handbooks on Gale eBooks

Actual business plans compiled by, and aimed at, entrepreneurs seeking funding for small businesses. Presents sample plans taken from businesses in the manufacturing, retail and service industries which serve as examples of how to approach, structure and compose business plans.

3. Growing Your Business

Once you’re up and running, it can be a challenge to grow and expand your business.  The resources below will help you to think differently about this.


Purple Cow by Seth Godin

You're either a Purple Cow or you're not. You're either remarkable or invisible. Make your choice. What do Apple, Starbucks, Dyson, and Pret a Manger have in common? How do they achieve spectacular growth, leaving behind former tried-and-true brands to gasp their last? The old checklist of P's used by marketers - Pricing, Promotion, Publicity - aren't working anymore. The golden age of advertising is over. It's time to add a new P - the Purple Cow." Purple Cow" describes something phenomenal, something counterintuitive and exciting and flat-out unbelievable. In his new bestseller, Seth Godin urges you to put a Purple Cow into everything you build, and everything you do, to create something truly noticeable. It's a manifesto for anyone who wants to help create products and services that are worth marketing in the first place.

Online Learning

LinkedIn Learning

  • Advertising on Facebook
    • Amplify your reach with Facebook advertising. Learn how to create and manage Facebook ads campaigns that grow your business and boost your brand.
  • Google Ads Essential Training
    • Learn the foundations of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising with Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords) the industry-leading PPC platform.
  • Marketing Tools: Digital Marketing
    • As a modern marketer, you have a wealth of digital marketing solutions at your disposal. How do you determine which ones are right for you and your organization? In this course, marketing expert Anson Alexander digs into the tools available to you across the different areas of digital marketing, providing you with key insights along the way.

4. Developing Technology and Software Skills

Developing a business or nonprofit today usually requires learning something new.  From web development to online marketing, we have a collection of courses to get you ready for any challenge.

Online Learning

LinkedIn Learning

  • Javascript Essential Training
    • Javascript is a versatile and popular language that powers many popular websites and apps.  This course is a great introduction to this powerful programming language.
  • Shopify Essential Training
    • Shopify is one of the most popular sites for developing ecommerce sites on the web. This course will teach you how to get up and running in no time.
  • Wordpress 5 Essential Training
    • Wordpress powers most websites on the Internet. Get a crash course in how to build and deploy a beautiful website using this powerful tool.

5. Building Business and Industry Knowledge

If you want to build a successful business, it’s critical to stay on top of industry news and business trends. Knowledge is power. The resources below can help you to do just that.

Electronic Resources

Atlanta Journal Constitution Image Edition

Atlanta’s preeminent local paper. (New York Times)

America’s paper of record, with an excellent business section. Spend a few minutes here to stay on top of the most important business news. (Wall Street Journal)

America’s business newspaper.  Great resource to stay on top of national and international business trends.