All businesses start with brilliant ideas. Most of these brilliant ideas sound great, too, and you may be excited to take the plunge into entrepreneurship.
Hold on- you need a business plan.
“Another report? More paperwork?” Yes, indeed, and the need for a business plan is well worth the time and effort it takes to write up.
But a business plan isn’t just another report. A business plan is your ideas, vision and goals on paper. It’s where you want to be and how you are going to get there. A business plan shows who your competition is, what obstacles you might face, and how you plan to overcome them.
A business plan shows that you’re serious about your ideas and have a clear path from A to Z. It shows that your ideas are viable ones for a business that earns money. It also helps you determine whether it’s worth putting energy into your ideas or making investments in your visions.
Sometimes, people have great ideas but when they start to write them down, they see that the long-term predictions aren’t that attractive. They may uncover points they never considered or reveal a major stumbling block that will take thought and careful planning to overcome. They may discover new opportunities or a simpler way of earning money.
There are other reasons for writing a business plan, too. Banks and investors want to know what your business is all about before they will offer loans, grants or funding. You may need to take a loan to buy equipment for your business startup, but if a bank can’t see that you have the potential to pay back the money, chances are they won’t lend it to you in the first place. A good business plan shows a bank that their risk involved in lending you money is very low.
You can use your business plan to, as a way to concentrate on what you need to do to reach your goals. It’s very easy to forget important steps when you’re new in business or stray from the path of your main objectives. Another good idea is to remove the financial information from a business plan to leave a guide for employees that helps them to know what your business is all about and to maintain focus as they work.
A business plan is generally about ten pages long. These ten pages cover topics such as:
Your business description
The operations of your business
The marketplace and competition
Sales, marketing and promotion
The first half of your business plan is all about your business in the physical aspect. What does your business do? What is its past, its present and its future? Who are the major competitors? Where do you predict your business to be in five years? How will you get there?
Sales and marketing is an important part of your business plan. What is the price of your product or service? What is the cost of goods sold? How will you promote your business and increase your client base? How will you make sure that customers buy from you and don’t go shopping from the competition?
This is important. It isn’t good enough in business to know where you are now and how you’ll make money now. You have to be a little bit of a visionary and try to see down the road. With a clear plan of where you’d like your business to be and what you need to do to reach that point, you have a better chance of success – and attracting investors!
The second half of your business plan is all about the number crunching. This is where you’ll need to put in facts and figures, where you’ll need to lay out your financial information, your current situation and the health of your business, as well as your predictions for its future health.
It’s very important that your numbers show solid backup to all the information you’ve provided in the first half of your business plan. Do the numbers reflect the business you’ve described?
There are plenty of free online tools to help you build a solid, well-constructed business plan. It’s vital that you take the time to write up your business plan, too- don’t wait. You never know when you may need to produce this written document, and if you don’t have it handy, you may end up missing out on opportunities.