Business Plan. Two words that strike fear in the hearts of even the most intrepid entrepreneur. What do I say? Where will I get the information? Can I hire someone to write it for me? The good news is, it’s not as hard as it seems. All you have to do is dive in. It may not be perfect on the first go, but you WILL get there. Think of your business plan as your blueprint for success.
Why do I need a business plan? Because that great, but nebulous, idea in the back of your mind needs focus. It is important that the plan be in writing. Writing the plan forces you to see both the positive and negative aspects of this business venture. It helps you replace “I think” with “I know”.
This is the roadmap by which you evaluate your progress. It is a living document, meant to be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. Most lenders will want to see a business plan in order to evaluate a loan application, whether for a start-up or line of credit for operations. A well-developed business plan shows potential partners, including lenders, that you are serious about your business idea. Additionally, a business plan can help you evaluate your idea before you start your busines. It may expose opportunities you might not have considered. It will help you evaluate the market, as well as your competition, and assist in defining your target market. The financial section will assist you in researching start-up costs, as well as calculate operating expenses and profit/loss.
There are many guides and templates available to assist you as you write your plan, but keep in mind that no one can write the plan for you. It is your vision, your dream and your company. There are many templates available on line. Score.org and SBA.gov both have excellent guides to assist in the process. Google business plans for your business/industry sector. But remember – it is YOUR plan.
All business plans contain the same basic elements:
1.Executive summary: This section should be written last and summarize the rest of the document. It should include a brief description of the business, a market overview, summary of your success strategy and financial summary.
2.Detailed business plan: Include the experience/expertise you bring to the business. Describe the business. How is it unique? Describe key factors that will define your success.
3.Market Analysis: Who are your customers? What is the size of the market? What product features will influence your customer’s buying decisions. Evaluate economic factors like unemployment, inflation, recession and their potential influence on your market.
4.Competitor Analysis: Who is your existing competition? Who might enter the market? Why would your potential customer choose you instead of the competition?
5.Strategic plan: How will you market to these customers; including pricing, promotion and service?
6.Organization management plan: What is your form of business organization and how will it be staffed?
7.Financials: How much money do you need to make this business a success? Create a list of start-up expenses and an operational budget with realistic projection of the cost of doing business. Do projections. Where will your business be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years? Develop a break-even analysis.
8.Strategic Action Plan: Include a clear mission statement, specific performance goals, and control procedures to keep the business on track.
Call SCORE for a mentor who can help you develop your plan. They can recommend resources for information and serve as a sounding board as you develop your ideas. But, since this is YOUR plan, they cannot write it for you.
This is not a document that you can crank out in an afternoon. It will take planning, thought and research, but the end result will be worth the effort. You will have a blueprint by which you can measure your on-going progress toward your goals.