The Business Plan, of all things ‘business’, creates perhaps, the most anxiety for would-be business owners. It is very important because it serves as the official roadmap to your success. It is where all of those thoughts you’ve written in your business journal will go. It’s where your research will be defined and where you demonstrate how your business will be competitive and profitable.
Your Business Plan will serve several important purposes. It not only is your roadmap to profits, but it also is a great marketing tool. It’s where you can show off your product and/or services and what makes them top-notch. Obviously, it needs to be tailored to you and your business. Yes, you! You’re what’s behind your business and potential investors and clients need to know what you bring to the table.
There is no one-size-fits-all business plan but there are certain things that, in my opinion, are absolutely necessary to be included in order to have a comprehensive plan. If after looking through the parts of a plan you still feel overwhelmed, there are professionals that do a great job of putting plans together along with you for presentation. It can be pricey but, in many cases, it’s well worth it!
- Executive Summary
Let me be totally up-front. Everyone you give your business plan to, no matter how well put together it is, will not read through it entirely. It’s just human nature. There is so much information that goes into a business plan, and you want to start strong with a brief summary that includes basic information about you, your product and/or service, overview of your current financial situation and financial potential, and lastly, a detailed description of the plan for running and growing your business. Try to put yourself in the reader’s place. What would you want to know about a business if you were considering investing? What’s important? I know you’ll probably think everything is important but it’s most important to be brief and succinct, but eye catching.
- Organizational Structure
Here’s where you describe your business entity, management and board (if you have one) structure. It’s also where you might want to go into some more personal details about the owner(s). Things like education, experience, even a description of what motivated you to go into business.
You’ll want to be sure to succinctly describe who will be in charge of what. This not only gives a sense of structure but also demonstrates that you are not flying by the seat of your pants, so to speak.
Will you have departments? What will they be and what will they do? Will there be checks and balances in place? Will you have in-house professionals taking care of certain aspects or do you plan to contract out?
Don’t feel bad if this part isn’t perfect at first. Get it all written out and rearrange it as much as you need to. You might also find that as your business grows, this part needs to be updated to reflect the growth. This would be a good thing!
This part, if done correctly, will show that you’ve got your bases covered and that you’ve accounted for what might come up as you run your business. It will show those reading it that you are a badass business owner who knows exactly what to do and is prepared should something come up (and believe me, something always comes up).
- Company Description
This is simply an overview of your company. You might feel you’re being repetitive at this point, but repetition can be good thing. What, exactly, is your business? Why is your company unique? Why are you opening your business? Where are you opening your business? Why there? This part is the who, what and why of your business.
Here’s where you put your ideas down for show and list out those things that will make your business the success you know it’s going to be. Here is also where you set yourself apart from ‘the rest’. What makes you the best? What’s your edge? For example, for me, one of the things that sets me apart besides my digital presence is the fact that I am unlike what most people think of attorneys in that, I am down to earth, easily approachable and don’t talk over anyone’s head. So, think about what makes you special and put it here!
- Description of Product/Services
I’m guessing if you have a business, you have a product and/or service you’re offering to potential clients. You will want your plan to highlight this. Whether your product is a new invention or already out there, you’ll want to demonstrate that you know there’s a market for what you’re offering.
What do you do or offer? What makes your business the business to offer it?
If your product is an invention, you should mention any patents here and exactly where you are in that process.
- Description of Market and Strategy
You have to know who your potential client is and how you’ll connect with them. How will you let them know that what they want is what you have? There are many ways you can market and depending on your potential clients, some ways are better than others. Not everyone reads the newspaper. Is your potential client one that would? Then take out an ad. Wherever your potential clients are most likely to be is exactly where you want to advertise your product and this part of your business plan should describe not only where that place is, but how you know it.
- Business Logistics
This is the part where you’ll talk about how many potential clients your marketing strategy will expose you to. Of the many people exposed to your marketing, how many are likely to ‘bite’? Do you have enough product for that amount of people? Are you able to provide your service to them? Maybe marketing is not in your Zone of Excellence or Genius. It’s ok if it’s not. That means you might want to consider hiring a marketing professional. Whatever you feel is best, this is where you should discuss that decision and why you made it. A description of the company you have selected would go great here along with some of their successes and how they fit with your marketing vision.
- Financial Description
If you’re in a position to be starting a business and have working capital at the beginning, you’re blessed. Here in this part is where you want to describe your financial position. Not everyone has capital to start with. One of the many reason’s you’re writing a business plan in the first place is to highlight your business so that you can secure capital for funding. This is where you want to discuss funding and your profit potential. You’ll need to describe what you’re starting with, no matter how little. The important part is that you can articulate your business’s potential to be financially profitable.
You’ll also need to describe liabilities of the business here. Do you have a rental agreement? What about any other recurring liabilities? Salaries? All of that should be listed here.
The idea is to be able to project growth through sales enough to gain a profit after paying liabilities. That’s the entire goal!
- Funding Needs
If you’re using your business plan to capture the attention of potential funders, you’ll need to be explicit about the request. Some people have a problem asking for money. Try not to be shy but also try not to be unrealistic. I’d love to walk into a room of potential funders and ask for a million bucks but it might not be a good idea without statistics to back up how I’ll be able to make that then some as a return on the investment. Really, demonstrate the effort you’ve put in to determining what you’ll need to get started, how the money will be used, after the money is used, how long will it be before you’re fully sustainable, and it’s a good idea to give a sense of where your business will be in 12, 24 and 36 months.
If you’ve referred to any article, outside information or documents, here’s where you could include them. Maybe there’s a specialized certification needed to offer your service. Here’s where can include documentation that you’ve gained that certification. If there’s an article discussing a new trend related to your service, add it here. Anything you referred to in your plan, if it can be printed to substantiate your point, add it here. Don’t go overboard like you’re writing a dissertation. But add enough to bolster your point.
This is a great start but it won’t help you with every part of developing your business plan. The internet, like in many areas, is a great resource. Be sure your business plan is not a cookie cutter taken from a google search. Take the time to do your research and tailor your plan to fit your business needs. Remember, if you can’t complete this all on your own, there is absolutely nothing wrong with contracting out.
Here’s to making IT Crystal Clear!