Business plans often cause anxiety to many small business or independent business owners. Mainly because they seem so complicated at first glance. Staring at an empty page and trying to figure out just what to write in that business plan can be very nerve wracking. Some businesses or sole proprietors even wonder if a business plan is even necessary. The short answer to that is no, not necessarily when you are first starting out. A business plan isn't exactly necessary when you are going into business for yourself. However, a business plan is just like a map for your business. It explains the main goal(s) of your business and lists out the ways to get to that main goal. It is very helpful to have it all in writing and to pinpoint exactly where you want your business to go, short term and long term. When you are first starting out as a business, it's more important to get your basic goals set up, an action plan to reach those goals and to establish your business.
Having a business plan could possibly help you to stay focused and motivated on the goals and the main vision of your business. Occasionally some small business owners get off track or discouraged due to slow business or having a hard time getting customers or clients. You will want to stay focused on your business to succeed, even in the difficult times. Having that business plan to look over (for yourself or employees of your start up) at that point will really help you to stay motivated and to gain some faith back that you may have lost. As you go along and learn what works and doesn't work, you can tweak that business plan to include your new-found knowledge until you feel that the business plan includes all that it should.
Your business plan should include:
- YOUR EXECUTIVE SUMMARY which is the most essential part of your business plan. This block describes exactly what your business does, your target market, what problem your product or service solves and clearly states the purpose of your business plan for the individual you are sending it to. This summary should be short but very informational. What is your business concept? What is your volume of sales and projected sales? (If writing for a loan application) Why are you looking for a business loan and how much would you be needing? Who are the key players in your business? Have you had any achievements that are brag-worthy? Your executive summary should be approximately one page long.
- YOUR BUSINESS SUMMARY should include (you guessed it!) a summary of your business. What does your business do and what problem does it solve in the industry? What is your basic industry? How is your business better than others in the industry? What products/services do you currently have and what products/services are you working on for the future? What is your mission? When was your business established and how has it grown?
Within your business summary you should also describe the products that you currently have. The description of your products should be clear and detailed, but not too long. They should also answer the questions; What problem does your project solve? Who would buy your product? If you have many products and can't list them all on your business plan, your best plan would be to only include the most successful or popular products that you currently have.
- SALES AND MARKETING should include how you plan on marketing your business or products. Do you use direct marketing? Do you use content marketing, social media marketing, other forms of internet marketing or a combination of all? How do you get to the target audience that you see as your customers? This can include anything that you feel fit in describing your marketing plan. (Which we will cover in another blog.)
- COMPETITION will include Who is your competition? This should clearly state how you're different from your competition and what do you plan to do to stand out. You can include a competitive analysis which analyzes all of the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. This will show how you have the upper hand and what you do differently. You need to have that edge over your competition to succeed and stand out!
- FINANCIAL PLAN is very important in your business plan. This includes your start up costs, how you have grown, financial projections, the amount that you will need to sustain your business over the next few years, how you plan to use the funds you have and may need to borrow and other financial figures that would be important to partners and possibly lenders. You will also need to include business expenses such as salaries, costs and expenses; just to show that you still turn a profit after all of your expenses are paid our.
If you are having a hard time getting your business plan ready, there are many simple guides, tutorials and templates out there to help you get started. There is great information out there if you take the time to look. They basically include your main goal, the vision of your business, what your business can do for others, the target demographic, outline of competition and how you plan to excel further than them, your services, your budget for advertising, expenses and so on and your marketing plan. Having all that in one place is extremely helpful in many situations.
Banks often require business plans in order to complete and finalize a SBA or small business administration loan if you are just starting out. If you are an established business just looking for extra funds to fund an upcoming project, they won't require a business plan. However, if you do provide a business plan during your bank meeting you will probably have the upper hand. Business plans written for the specific use of acquiring a bank loan will need to include proof that your business generates enough income on a steady basis in order to cover your costs and the loan payback. This type of business plan should be more financially based than anything else. You should use figures and charts that show how your business has grown financially over time and even financial projections.
If you just need to write a basic business plan for your partners or employees, that would be considered more operational. You would simply have to include your mission, plan for advancement, possibly how you plan to market your business and your basic schedule that you plan to implement for marketing purposes, your business objectives and how you plan to achieve those goals and just clearly communicating any plan that you have or want to have in your business.
Another idea, if you still cannot write that business plan, is to hire a virtual assistant. There are many virtual assistants that are well versed in writing business plans. They can either assist you with creating your plan for you, or you can outsource to them with your ideas and visions for them to put the ideas into the right format for your business plan. Virtual assistants are low cost options to help you with administrative and customer service duties, just like a business plan and business strategy! Why not get started today?