Write A Great Business Plan
When starting a new business it is essential to have a thorough business plan to provide the much-needed clarity for yourself and to show others your vision of how the business is structured and will operate. Even if you don’t think you need one, it will be a useful tool that you will be glad you took the time to develop.
Why You Need A Business Plan
If you understand why you need a great business plan and how it can be used by yourself and others, you can then craft and develop an effective plan that gets results. I am fond of saying, “To be professional you need to act professional,” and a great business plan can be a very powerful tool show that you know what you’re doing. Whether you will use it to get financing, attract investors or partners, even just to get your goals and objectives written down, it will be a useful reference and benchmark as your business matures and progresses.
A comprehensive business plan requires some thought and attention to areas of the business you may not have even considered at this early stage but are extremely important. This may include sales, marketing and advertising, your target market or customer, your direct competition or statistics and projections for your industry. These are all areas that you need to confront, plan for them head-on and not postpone. It will be much easier to write and get others to what you and your business is about when you have a deep understanding of your business, industry and customers yourself.
In addition, it is a standard in business that shows you have researched, examined or considered the many facets to operating your venture and can help you obtain a lease, funding and more. If you don’t have a really thorough business plan right now, you should add it to the list of things that you need to do and make it a high priority. There will come a time when someone asks for it and you will be glad that you have it ready to submit or send to those that request or require it of you.
What’s In A Great Business Plan?
Although plans can vary depending on their purpose or intent, most business plans are more than twenty pages long, project three to five years in the future, and include the following elements:
Executive Summary - An overview of the company, goals and business plan.
Company Description - Analysis of the what the business does, the market the business services, and what makes this business unique to other products or services currently offered by others.
Organization & Management - The overall structure of the business and how it will operate.
Market Analysis - Direct and indirect competition. What are they doing and how is your product or service different .
Services or Products - What you are offering or selling. What are the benefits or advantages you offer?
Marketing & Sales - How you are going to advertise and promote your product or services and how much you have budgeted toward these efforts.
Financial Projections - Historical (past financial data, if any) and prospective (future financial data) projections.
Funding Request - An outline of the funds that are needed and how they will be spent.
Appendix - Supporting documents that may include references, legal documents, credit history, and more.
An Outline For The Future
Even if it changes along the way once the business opens, it is critical for the entrepreneur to structure the business right from the start the way that they envision it should operate. The understanding gained while developing the operational structure of your business will help you greatly, and will help financial backers, banks, strategic partners and even landlords understand what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. No one expects that everything will work out exactly like it’s written, but it shows what you are striving for and aiming toward with your new venture.
Look In The Mirror
It will require you to make projections, set goals, identify milestones and make some realistic self-analysis of yourself and your business. You will need to have to take time to consider the challenges, weaknesses and potential threats you will face in the early days of operation and how you will overcome them.
Take Your Time
A good business plan takes some time to develop, and once the business actually opens you may not have time to give it the attention it needs, so make sure you have it in hand early in the process of starting your business. Not unlike having all of your paperwork in front of you before you file your taxes, it is good to have all of your info and data together before you start writing one, too.
Write, Write, Write!
You should have a good company Mission Statement, Core Values and well-researched document about your target market and a detailed target customer profile. While these may not seem important to your business plan, you will find it easier to develop your business plan with these documents. You can find many examples of great company mission statements and core values online from successful companies like Zappos to get some ideas for your own.
Be Realistic and Truthful
Make sure you are realistic in your claims, assumptions and projections. Make sure that your growth shows steady and not sudden increase, and your projected profit fits in with others in your industry. Don’t be afraid to identify and show things that could challenge or even jeopardize your expected success, growth or expansion. I have read business plans with outrageous claims of huge growth and profits that may have been possible, were not very realistic or likely.
Where To Start
While the process can be daunting and seem overwhelming at first, there are a few ways to make a good business plan. Here are some suggestions:
- Get some examples of good business plans to understand the elements that are in one. There are plenty available online to download or view. Don’t let the size of the examples and all of the elements involved scare you - if you do your homework, the process will not be that tough to complete. Google “business plan examples” to see how they are structured and look.
- Visit the Small Business Administration for business plan resources and explanations of the different elements involved. Other resources you may find useful are Entrepreneur Magazine and SCORE.
- Get your information together so it’s easy to refer to. If you haven’t done so already, write your mission statement, company core values statement, and USP. Gather information and research statistics about your industry and where your product fits in the market. Write about your target customer and why they need your service or product. Learn about your direct and indirect competition. Use an example of a business plan from a similar business to get some ideas.
- If you have never written a business plan before, you should consider using a good program or the services of someone experienced in writing business plans. I recommend using LivePlan as they have samples and examples based on your industry which can be extremely useful. For $19.95 for a month you can use their online software to develop your plan and export a great looking document when completed. They have vast resources for entrepreneurs and more than 300,000 people worldwide have used the service.
Take the process of developing and writing a great business plan very seriously and try to use this as an opportunity to set up your business the way that you think it should operate and a roadmap for the future success of your company. A well-developed business plan can give you confidence and reassure others that you have covered all the bases in planning out your business operation. It’s your business and no one is going to come along and structure it for you!