So, you’ve decided to be an entrepreneur!! Good for you!!
You’ve taken the first step. You have an idea. But where do you go from here??
It’s a long way from the idea phase to cashing in that first million dollar check. Trust me!! So, how do you get from point A to point B and then to point C and D and so on??
Well, if you ask me, my friends, I would tell you that you it’s time to make a plan. More specifically, a business plan.. or a creative plan.. depending on what kind of business you’re getting yourself into.
Some might tell you that a business plan is a waste of time, but when you think about it, how else are you going to know when and if you are reaching your goals and business milestones if you haven’t mapped them out?
If you do nothing else, please.. please.. please.. write out a business budget, or better yet a cash flow sheet. A well thought out budget will categorize and track your expenses, monthly and annually, and help to eliminate any surprises along the way.
For the purposes of this post, however, I am going to assume that you are taking my advice and allotting some time to write a business plan. Business planning is especially important if you intend to seek out capital investments from a bank or other sort of lending institution.
If you haven’t written a plan before, it can be a pretty daunting task. I know that I was petrified when I set out to write my first plan for a business course that I attended a few years back.
First of all, when I wrote my first plan, it was with pen and paper and most of my research was done offline, at the library. The internet was around, but it didn’t have nearly as many cool planning tools as it does today.
If you type “Business Plan” into Google, it yields over 500,000,000 results! Let me tell you now, a lot of them are crap. People know how hard it is to complete a business plan and many of them want to capitalize off of that fact.
I’ve done the leg work and found two great FREE resources that offer all of the tools and information you will need to write an absolutely stellar plan.
The first link that I think you should check out, for our American friends, is SCORE.org. They are a nonprofit organization that provides tons of FREE resources, as well as counselling services for small businesses.
The second, for all of my Canadian homies, is Futurepreneur.ca. This is a fantastic resource for you if you are just starting to plan your business, or if you are looking for financing and/or mentorship in business, as they offer financing up to $45,000 and mentoring for up to two years after financing has been established. Their business planner is really top-notch and their resources go on for days. You should really check them out.
Or, if you want to try to write your plan from scratch, on your own, allow me to take you through the essential steps to a typical plan. (NOTE: Requirements for your business plan will vary depending on your industry, so you may want to do some research here to make sure you aren’t leaving anything out)
First things first, your ‘Executive Summary‘. It is the last thing you write, but is the first section of your plan. It should contain summaries of the rest of the sections.
Next, you will want to include your ‘Company Description‘, which is basically an overview of your company, a list of the products and services you deal with, an outline of your target market, and your competitive advantages. Essentially, this is your extended elevator pitch.
Follow that with your ‘Market Analysis‘, which should contain research about your industry and your target market. You may want to include reference to appendices here and include them at the end of your plan. You can never over do it on the research front.
Now, you will want to include your ‘Operational Plan‘, which outlines everything involved in day-to-day operations, from inventory to accounting. This section will help you ensure the efficiency of your business.
Moving on, you have the ‘Organization & Management‘ section. Here, you will illustrate work flow and outline who is in charge of each department and what tasks fall under each job title.
Next, we have ‘Products & Services‘, which is pretty self explanatory. You will want to list and describe the products and services offered by your business. Try to sound enticing about the products and services you offer, as if you were trying to attract a customer.
‘Marketing & Sales‘ is the section where you layout your marketing plan and describe how you intend to reach your target market and eventually sell your products and services. Detail in planning will help you here.
Then, we have the meat and potatoes of your plan, the ‘Financial Projections‘. Here you will get the opportunity to crunch some numbers and figure out how much your company will make over a certain period of time. Usually five years. If you are an established business, you will be able to use historical data to base your projections on. If you are a start-up, you will have to estimate based on your marketing strategy, discussed above.
Lastly, to sum up your plan, you will have your ‘Funding Request‘, assuming that you have written this plan because you are in pursuit of funds. Define your funding requirements, describe how would use the funds, should they be granted to you, and specify exactly how you would go about paying your investor back and over what period of time.
As you can see, there are lots of bells and whistles when it comes to a business plan, but as I am sure you will realize as you prepare your own, it familiarizes you with your company on a whole new level. The benefits of having a business plan, whether you are applying for financing or not, are truly immeasurable.
What is you are not selling a product or service? Well, then, perhaps a creative business plan is more up your alley?
Here is an article on Etsy about writing a business plan in under an hour. I don’t know if that’s possible, but hey, why don’t you give it a try!?
Perhaps you are looking to start a blog and you want to carefully map out your theme, social strategy, and trajectory before you dive right in? I would highly suggest that you visit this article on byRegina.com (one of my favourites) about creating a business plan for your blog. A big time must read if blogging is in the cards for your future, or maybe you already have a blog and are ready to take it to the next level. Seriously, check it out.
I think that we’ve covered enough here to get you started and running full steam ahead! Check back soon and we will discuss licenses, permits, registration, trademarks, zoning, and the like. The next logical step on your road to self-sustainability.
I’ll see you there!!
If you have any questions or comments about writing a business plan, comment below. I’ve been there and done that and would love to help out in any way that I can.