The seed of ingenuity has finally sprouted into a garden of creativity and entrepreneurship. You’re finally ready to take the leap so many successful people before you have taken to become your own boss, lead people and champion industries but you don’t know where to begin. Writing a business plan can seem daunting with little to no experience. I’ve been writing professional custom business plans for 7 years and each one brings with it the task of presenting accurate information tailored to the specific group of people who will read it. Creating a business plan is no small task but with my help and following these simple steps you will be on your way to turning your idea into an asset in no time.
Each business plan needs to answer four main questions: what is your market and industry like, how will you carve out your piece of the market, what product or service will you offer, and most importantly what will you do with your money? The following sections I am about to discuss will describe in detail answers to each of these questions and, when approached individually, will help you organize your thoughts, your approach to business and the success of your company for years to come. The key to every section is to remember who your audience is, whether board members, investors, bankers or yourself, and write for them answering any questions you feel they might have along the way.
Executive Summary – Although this 1-2 page document comes at the beginning of your plan it is imperative to write this last. The executive summary is a succinct rehash of everything within the pages of your plan. It is the most important piece of information as it is oftentimes the sole piece of your entire document many people will read. For this reason you should wait until you have finished every other section so you can briefly describe within a few short paragraphs what you hope to accomplish and how the reader can help you get there. Your business plan is a living document meaning it will grow, develop, and even change over time. Your executive summary should mature right along with it.
Company Description- Your company description will provide insight into who your company is, how it will be organized and the responsibilities of each key individual, who your customer will be, the physical location you will operate in/from, and what sets your company apart from the competition.
Market Analysis- This is the section you will likely learn the most from. It is where you study your competition, define your market and what you will bring to it, recognize trends and provide insight into the future of your industry. Aside from how you manage finances this section will be the make or break point in your business. Research it well then when you’ve done that research it some more.
Organization & Management- Employee’s are the biggest asset to any great company. Here you will diagram each department and the people needed to make it excel. Typical questions answered here are Who will be responsible for your company as a whole? Who will manage day-to-day affairs? Who is going to take care of each responsibility within the organization?
Products & Services- Obviously no company will succeed without something to offer the marketplace. Even non-profit organizations provide something for even a small group of people. What is it and what are its benefits? If it is a product where will it be made? This is also a good time to give a brief description of what your product will cost to make and how much you plan to sell it for. If you operate a non-profit then where will your money come from and how will you obtain it?
Marketing & Sales- Now that you have defined what you will offer and who it will be presented to you need to describe how you plan to inform your customers of your new hi-tech widget. Will you be on billboards or is the internet more suited to your industry. What is your sales strategy and how much do you expect to sell? Writing a book is hard. Convincing someone to read it is even harder.
Funding Request- Not every business is fully funded before the doors swing open. In fact, most businesses require some source of outside capital to begin or grow their operations. How much do you need? What will you do with the money? And most importantly when will you pay back the bank or when will investors begin to see a return on their investment?
Financial Projections- If the Market Analysis is the most in-depth part of your business plan then the Financial Projections is the most tedious. Every cost, every bill, every penny will need to be accounted for and this is where you do it. What are your projected daily operating costs and sales goals? What are your monthly fixed and variable costs? How much money do you need just to stay afloat and how long do you project it will take to turn your first profit? Typical projections include daily/weekly cash flows, monthly gross and net amounts, and year-to-year growth margins.
Twice as many people are able to triumphantly secure capital and raise funds than people without a business plan. Concurrently 20% more companies on average have been shown to grow their current business with the help of a well thought out plan than without. Any plan can seem daunting when looked at from a distance but remembering to take a deep breath and attack each individual section one at a time will help to gain much needed funding and uncover the minor details that will make a major difference in the success of your company. Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Hopefully the advice in this column has helped you take a step in the right direction.