So, you’ve started your own business – what an exciting (and stressful) time! By now you have registered your business, opened a bank account, and are building up your pennies. By this point, you are probably thinking about the next steps on your journey and ways that you can grow this business out of its fledgling stage. Maybe you are looking to gain funding from the bank or other group, or maybe you are simply looking to set a clear objective for yourself and your team as a way to strategize and plan for your future. Whatever the reason, looks like you need yourself a business plan.
Regardless of your reasoning to construct a business plan, Nufás Media has put together this quick cheat sheet for the best way to construct the most useful business plan you can with minimal mental breakdowns along the way. Throughout this article we have done our best to include links to other, more comprehensive articles that will give you a more in-depth step by step, as creating a business plan is no small feat.
Entrepreneur outlines a number of different types of business plans to choose from. The mini-plan (approx. 10 pages) which will serve as a reference to the business owner(s) to keep themselves on track for any goals outlined in the plan for the business’ future. The presentation plan, which is solely through PowerPoint and allows business owners the advantage of using their charisma to get their message across to their audience rather than relying on their intentions to leap off the page.
If you are an informal writer and are just trying to clear your mind on business objectives for yourself and your team (like the mini-plan), a working plan might be the right choice for you. Here, candor is encouraged and a less formal style of outlining the plan is totally acceptable, because it’s just for you and your team! So, let loose and make it work best for you and not the stuffy loan officer.
The Executive Summary
The first thing anyone will see when they look at your completed business plan is the Executive Summary. But while this is the first thing anyone will see, we recommend that this be the absolute last thing you complete. The reason for this is that your Executive Summary will be the overall hook that will hopefully make investors feel compelled to continue reading through financials and goals throughout, and although you are the expert on your own business, once you finish the other steps of your plan, you will likely see your business in a whole new light as it is now down on paper, and so much more clear to you. This will give you the extra edge needed when completing your executive summary.
Who Are You Writing For?
As stated above, there are a number of different types of business plans that you can choose based on the reasoning behind why you feel you need to create one. As a business owner, you have likely done a lot of contemplating and people watching in order really nail down your target demographic for your business – but that work is not over yet. When constructing your plan, you need to know exactly who you are writing for. Is it your team at a newly formed moving company? A loan officer? Your mother? Whomever it may be, you have to get inside the mind of that person and make it compelling to them in whatever way you can.
What Need Does Your Business Fulfill?
This is one of the most important sections of your plan. What need does your business fulfill? Are you providing a public service or offering a source of entertainment? The people reading your business plan are looking for this reason to be compelling, so do your best to have a grasp on what void your business is filling in your community or in the world.
The Financial Plan
In this section, it is helpful if you have already had some traction with your business. If this is the case, include charts and graphs that clearly show your planned sales, expenses, and profitability. If you are presenting this plan in an effort to gain some funding, a detailed description on how you would use that funding to grow your business further, and also how your investors may see some return down the line, is of utmost importance.
Despite common belief, investors don’t only care about the financials. Although this is a big part of it, investors want to see that your team is strong. If you don’t have a solid team behind you, there is a good chance your business will not survive through its infancy as it takes a great deal of work and resolve to get through the beginning stages of enterprising. Because of this, include a short description of your core team members, their role, and the value that they bring to that role.
Every business has some form of competition, and it is important to distinguish yourself from these competitors. Why should the customer choose you over them? In distinguishing yourself, you should outline the details of your competitor, but basically your objective in this section is to illustrate how your solution to your customers problems is different, better, or both. A helpful tool business owners utilize in order to do this is what’s called a ‘competitor matrix’ which you can find an example of here.