You need a business plan. Regardless of how simple your idea may be a business plan is necessary for progress. Writing down what you intend to accomplish and a plan on how you are going to get there is nothing but beneficial. Too often entrepreneurs skip the step of writing a business plan because they feel there is no need for one. Not only does a business plan give you a blueprint of your operations it can also be used to obtain investors, donations, and spread the word about your mission. The business plan is the brain of what you do and without the brain, you will inevitably end up lost in what started out as a headstrong journey. Here are seven steps to a winning business plan. Keep in mind these are general descriptions and of course, you can add to these to complete your plan. For example, every plan should have an appendix that details out the sources used in research that provides proof of the claims you have written in your plan. We skipped this portion of the plan because it is self-explanatory.
1. Executive Summary (What am I getting myself into?);
This is usually the first section of your business plan and gives the reader a chance to get to know you. An executive summary is the first impression of your business. There should be detail here, and keep it interesting. Readers want to know what to expect when reading the rest of your business plan and what goals you have for your company.
2. Company Description (Who are you? And why should I care?);
Here is where you detail out your story. How your company came about, what you want consumers to know about your company. This is the identity piece. In this section, you should also give reasoning on why a customer would prefer your company over others that offer the same product or service. Define your niche and how you plan to set yourself apart.
3. Market Analysis (What is everyone else doing?);
It may seem a little strange that a reader may want to know what other companies are doing, but keep in mind market analysis is necessary. When you decided to launch a business you probably did some research on other companies that offer what you offer. You looked into their follower count, website, services, and you may have even sent emails asking about their operations. This is market research! The readers of your business plan want to know this information too. To be a competitor you must know your fellow competitors.
4. Organization & Management (Who’s the boss around here?);
In this section, detail out the structure of how tasks are intended to get done. If you run a physical store location or restaurant, who is the manager? How many employees do you need? If you are the sole employee use this section to illustrate how things would run once you are able to hire employees. Include social media managers, brand stylists, interns etc. Be detailed. Operations are a key to having a successful business and investors want to know how you are going to manage.
5. Service or Product (I want one! But what is it?);
What do you sell or offer? Tell the story of your product. Sell the product to your reader! When readers feel, you have a great product they are more likely to invest and want to help you grow. This section will be one that changes over time as you begin to make new products and offer new services. Ensure that the items listed here connect to your company description, and similar products are covered in your market analysis.
6. Marketing and Sales (Sell me this pencil!);
Now that the reader knows who you are, what you offer and how you compare to other companies, it is time to explain how you intend to let the rest of the world know these very same things. Marketing plans can be lengthy, but here ensure that this section is concise and straight to the point. Readers want to know how you are going to market what you offer. Be sure to include lots of activities and actions in this section.
7. Financials (Show me the money!);
Here is one of your final sections. If you are seeking to fund there should be a line item of expenses that need to be taken care of. Vice versa if you do not need funding you can use this section to detail out startup expenses, operational expenses and potential income. Be as detailed as possible, because this section will help you stay on a budget.
These 7 steps are the bread and butter of your business. One you complete your business plan you will feel a great sense of direction. You can utilize your plan to secure funding and spread your message. As time goes on you will most likely end up changing many of the pieces of this plan. Changes in these sections are normal. This means you are growing and your business can accompany new challenges and opportunities. Take time out this week to work on your business plan. Find someone to read it and give you feedback. The better your plan, the better your outcome! One you complete your business plan you will feel a great sense of direction. You can utilize your plan to secure funding and spread your message. As time goes on you will most likely end up changing many of the pieces of this plan. Changes in these sections are normal. This means you are growing and your business can accompany new challenges and opportunities. Take time out this week to work on your business plan. Find someone to read it and give you feedback. The better your plan, the better your outcome!