Do you want to increase the odds that your business will be a success right from the get-go?
Then start with a business plan! I hear you groaning—but it really is the very first thing you need to do on your road to success.
Writing a business plan gives you an opportunity to carefully think through every step of starting your company so you can better prepare and handle any challenges.
You’ll also NEED a business plan to seek out financing from a local bank or credit union, or even a crowdfunding campaign.
Here’s what your business plan can help you do:
- Decide on your measurable objectives or desired outcomes
- Analyze the market and competition to strengthen your market share
- Target your audience with strategies for reaching them
- Plan for handling potential challenges so they don’t derail your startup
- Discover missed opportunities in your business idea so you can address them before you open for business
- Identify business opportunities you may not have considered and plan how to take advantage of them
- Approach and persuade potential investors, customers, or employees by showing you’re serious about your business
- Require you to calculate when your business will make a profit and how much money you need to reach that point, so you can be prepared with adequate startup capital
Laying out a detailed, step-by-step plan gives you a blueprint you can refer to during the startup process and helps you maintain your momentum.
This handy SCORE template includes the regular categories contained in most business plans. Some have fewer, some have more, but here are the main topics you need to cover in some form or another – especially if you are seeking funding:
- The Executive Summary (do this last; about 200 words explaining the reason for the ask)
- Company Description (your elevator speech)
- Products and Services (thoroughly explained, itemized, pricing, shipping, delivery)
- Marketing Plan (similar to a business plan, but for marketing)
- Operational Plan (How will your business function?)
- Management and Organization (who does what? business model, organizational chart)
- Startup Expenses and Capitalization (financial forecasting and existing bookkeeping activities)
- Financial Plan (where’s the money going to come from to start the business)
- Appendices – these can be your financial statements, the marketing plan, any schematics of your product or business location, letters of endorsement, and other key documents that help you present your case. Additional documents that may be attached might be contracts, leases, purchase orders, intellectual property, key management résumés, market research data or other supporting documents.
Once your plan is down on paper, you may need to modify it for specific uses, like when applying for a bank loan, or when setting up industries which require inventory or capital, such as retail or manufacturing. It’s perfectly fine to have multiple versions of a business plan. Think of it as your business résumé!
Once you complete your business plan, you’re on your way to greater business success. Plus a business plans serves as a roadmap to all staff and investors on how the business will be operational if something happens to you.
While writing a business plan can be time consuming, here are some tips to help you tackle the job:
- Don’t try to do it all in one sitting. It’s going to be several pages long (how long depends on your industry and appendices).
- Don’t (at first) bother writing in full sentences. Take the template and plug in some keywords or phrases to remind you what you want to discuss in each section.
- Look for existing forms or templates you can use for your documentation. SCORE Mentors has a Business Plan Template here and you can find a sales forecasting template here
- Ask for help. Mentors, the Small Business Administration, the SBDC, and other local resources have done this hundreds (or thousands) of times. You can find a mentor to assist you here at one of those organizations.
- Put something in every single section listed. Sort of like when you apply for a grant; you want to fill in all the blanks. Potential partners/bankers will want to know you’re capable of writing a clear and comprehensive description of your business and services.
- Don’t be afraid to show it to people. We all understand the challenge writing a business plan can bring to your already busy day. You never know what ideas (or mistakes) might show up to someone else. It’s your business, but be sure to think about the potential customer too.
Writing a business plan is a necessity for any small business. Without it, the business may have no true direction; no end goal or achievable measurable objective to follow. It provides security and continuity to the business if another management team is assigned, and can help immensely when seeking small business funding.
If you need help, send an email to Cheri Bales, Hannah/Gold Communications.