When you write a business plan, you have to try and predict the future both for your own operations’ sake and for the sake of anyone you want to attract onboard.
This level of prognostication may sound impossible, but really all you are doing is painting a vivid picture for how your proposed business would look, act, and budget itself, in order to accomplish its goals. The more details you include, the more likely the final product looks like the one you described on paper.
Getting all the complex details right is, therefore, one of the most critical parts of getting a business plan to truly work. You can use the following pointers to make wrangling all the details together a little easier:
Put in the Research Before You Write a Business Plan
The great thing about business plans is that people write new ones every single day. Many of them are confidential, but quality theoretical examples are readily available. Some real ones may also be available to the public.
In addition to looking at completed business plans, you can also dissect competitor operations in order to imagine how their business plan might look given the format of others. The more you can learn from successful businesses, the easier it will be to fill in the blanks when it comes to your own plan.
Make Sure All the Ingredients Are There
A solid business plan is comprehensive and answers the most common questions someone may have about a proposed operation. It also diagrams business practices, budgets and structures so that the business requires far less planning time during the actual startup phase.
To accomplish both of these goals, the Small Business Association recommends that every business plan includes a:
- Description of proposed company
- Analysis for the current state of the market the business will enter, including demand, opportunities and competitors
- Structure of your business, from top executives to base-level staff
- A specific description of services and/or products offered by the business
- Marketing, sales and growth strategy
- Financial projections, including ideal startup funding balance sheets, examples of operating balance sheets, projected income and growth, projected overhead costs, etc.
- Funding request, if needed, for covering capital expenses and startup costs within next 3 to 5 years
- Executive summary that quickly and convincingly sums up the document
- Appendix of any other needed items, such as resumes or product listing mock-ups
Pitch Your Plan to the Right Audience
Many business plans are written to help the founder obtain funding. Other times, the business plan is there to satisfy people like commercial property owners or vendors, who may need to be convinced to take a risk on engaging with the business. Still other times, the business plan is for the founders themselves, so they have a clear roadmap for getting started and expanding.
Each purpose may require different levels of details or different ways of presenting the information. For instance, an investor may want something short and punchy, while a vendor may be more interested in your financial risk mitigation abilities and projected revenues.
You may even have to write several versions of a business plan so that it can best fit the needs and expectations of its intended audience.
Don’t Forget to Indicate Why You Care
Along with all the other ingredients, passion and a distinctive set of values make a business what it is. Do not forget to provide a company profile or vision statement that communicates why you or your business will be different than the rest. You can also interweave your zeal for the company within other parts of the plan.
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