A solid business plan is a roadmap to success for any business. If you only have a vague idea of your destination or can only envision the last leg of your journey, then you can’t possibly expect to get there efficiently, or in some cases, at all.
While it’s tempting to forgo what might seem tedious, taking the time to complete this exercise will not only help you think through the best approach to growing your business, but it will also serve as a guiding document for hiring, expanding, and more in the future.
Ask the Right Questions
When you sit down to create a business plan, you need to look at your business from every angle; even angles that aren’t there yet. A business plan needs to include plans for the present and the future. Ask yourself questions like:
- Where do you want to see your business in 5 years? 10 years? 30 years?
- Do you want to bring on any partners to help run the business?
- Who might be your suppliers?
- How will you cater to your local population?
- How much of your budget will you attribute to marketing?
- What are your business-related goals and milestones
- What sorts of licenses and permits will you need?
Do Your Research
After you’ve asked yourself a litany of questions, set out to answer them concretely. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it could mean the difference between failure and success. For example, if your business requires you to hire any skilled labor, you need to know the average salary for that trade. Over- or under-compensating your employees could mean trouble for your financial projections or product quality.
The type of information you need will determine your research methods. It could be as simple as searching online, or it may involve talking to other business owners in your area or even reading a book or two.
Elements of a Business Plan
Most business plans have some similar parts; here are some you should consider when writing your own.
- Executive Summary: While this section appears at the beginning of the business plan, you will probably need to write this last. The executive summary encompasses the most important points from each of the other sections and should give the reader, often a lender or investor, a sense of what is to come. Succinctly let them know how your business will be successful.
- Company Analysis: Use this section to give information on the types of goods and services you will offer and your rationale behind them. Also include some of the necessary logistics like location, or any specializations.
- Market Analysis: Justify the demand for your business in its particular location and address any competition in your area. When conducting a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, what internal and external factors do you need to consider moving forward?
- Clientele: Knowing what your customers look like demographically can be a tremendous help with everything from pricing to products. How would you describe your “ideal customer”?
- Marketing Plan: It has become essential to cut through the noise and get the word out about your business, so use this section to outline your marketing efforts. This includes any plans for promotional strategies, social media, loyalty programs, etc.
- Operations Plan: Here is where you should discuss plans to hire an accountant, or any other operational staff, along with their compensation. You should also include both short- and long-term processes for sales transactions and order management, whether online or in-store.
- Management Team: This is the space to introduce the key members of your business. Mention any partners and how you will distribute and delegate operations.
- Financial Plan: You should outline your financial projections here. Answer the questions that an investor or lender will be especially interested in. To answer these questions, outline all costs, including rent, payroll, utilities, software, etc.
Whether you’re using a business plan as your own personal roadmap or as a tool to gain funding, it’s essential to be thorough. Revisit your business plan every three to five years to make sure you are on track and make any adjustments that you might need.
If you’d like to start or expand your Marion County business, the Build Fund, operated by King Park Development Corporation may be able to connect you to flexible, affordable, and responsible funding options for your business. Start the process now!