How to Write a Business Plan(Part I of a 4-part series on Writing Your Business and Marketing Plans)
Mapping Your Way to Business Success
No one gets an iron-clad guarantee of success. Certainly, factors like opportunity, luck and timing are important. But the backbone of success is usually found in old fashioned, basic concepts like hard work, determination, good planning and perseverance.—Merlin Olsen
You’ve heard the old maxim, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Perhaps you’ve spent hours dreaming about your business, imagining your achievements, and talking with friends and family about your goals, but without a business plan you haven’t given yourself the opportunity to truly plan all the necessary details and build a foundation for your success.A business plan is a must if you’re seeking funding from investors or a lending institution in the form of a loan. The business plan illustrates how profitable your business will be and builds confidence in those who will give you the money to start that business. But even if you’re not looking for funding, writing a business plan will enable you to articulate all the necessary details of your business, planning for its success.
So what’s required?
We won’t tell you that writing a business plan is quick and easy. It requires study and thought; but all that will pay off in the end when you find that you have a solid business plan to lead you through the difficulties and unexpected surprises of starting a new business. But we can walk you through the process, giving you an outline for the most important document in starting your new business.
Executive SummaryThis is exactly what it sounds like, a one to two-page summary of your business plan. It should contain your mission statement, your objectives and your goals. Because it is a summary, it’s usually easiest to write once you’ve completed all the other elements.Company DescriptionTake a few paragraphs to describe your company. If you’ve already started your business, detail its history. How did the business get started and list your profits, sales, and other important numbers. If you haven’t started your business yet, explain how you will start it. Will there be any partners? What business structure have you chosen and how is that the best choice for your business? Who are your competitors? What are current industry trends and how does your business fit within that industry?Descriptions of Products and/or ServicesThis is where you examine your accounting services. Who’s your target market for those services? How do you plan to appeal to your target market? How are your products and/or services different from your competitors’? How do you plan to best meet your target market’s needs?Market AnalysisObviously this will take some time and research; don’t fall short on this element of your business plan. If you don’t know your market, your business will fail. Go into the community and meet your target market, see what they need and how much they’re willing to pay for it. Where’s your target market located? If you service small business owners, where and how do you find them? What are your competitors doing to attract their business? How are your competitors’ responding to the needs of your target market? Where are your competitors falling short? Becoming an expert on your market just might give you that edge you need.Marketing PlanIn a few weeks, we’ll discuss the details of a marketing plan, but for now it’s important to know that it should cover the pricing of your services, your marketing objectives and strategies, advertising and promotional plans, and your marketing budget.
Come back next week to read about the final elements of your business plan:
- Operating Plan
- Management summary
- A 3 to 5-year Financial Plan
- An Exit Strategy
- Appendices and Exhibits
If you take the time and do it right, your business plan will prepare you for great success.