Are you thinking of starting a business in 2013 and wondering where you should start? Writing a business plan can double your chance of success as an entrepreneur**, so grab your laptop and start typing out your ideas. However, before you begin, there are a few important things to keep in mind when writing your first business plan:
Whose eyes will see it? Think about your audience. Is this an internal business plan for yourself, or will you be showing it to potential lenders or investors?
To template or not to template? Templates are great to use as guides, but make sure your plan is customized to reflect the uniqueness of your business. Your business is bound to be different from Joe Schmo’s, which is why templated business plans only go so far.
The Small Business Administration has a template that functions as a great starting point, or you can check out Enloop’s business plan and forecasting software, but make sure to customize your business plan to fit your business. If you’re more of a right-brained person, make sure you check out Jennifer Lee’s Right-Brain Business Plan® for a creative approach to writing a business plan.
The money side of things. Make sure you put in proper time and research when calculating your financial projections. Don’t think purely in the terms of profit, but be mindful of your cash flow, since that is what will keep you alive.
Know your out. Plan your exit strategy from the beginning. Whether you plan to sell your business upon retirement or sell it as soon as it hits profitability, know what your exit strategy is.
It’s alive! Remember that your business plan is not just a static document… it’s your living and breathing strategy for creating and maintaining a sustainable business. Once your business is up and running, you should periodically review it as the market changes.
What to include? A standard business plan usually includes the following, but don’t be afraid to customize according to your unique business idea:
- Cover page. Contains business name, principles names, address, phone number, email, logo
- Table of contents. Overview of plan topics
- Executive Summary. Short and to the point summary of your business that talks about your company, your products or services, your idea customer and target market, and the future of your business and industry
- Company Overview. An overview of your business model that mentions your key employees, mission statement, details about your products or services, and what will make your business a success
- Market Research. Show that you understand the industry you’re pursuing by including information about your ideal customer, a competitive analysis, and legal regulations impacting your company or industry
- Product or Service Line. Include a detailed product or service description and show what need it meets by talking about the benefits of your product or service, your competitive advantage, and your product or service’s current development stage
- Marketing and sales. Describe how you plan to reach customers and get sales by including your growth plans, customer communication strategy, and advertising plans
- Financial projections. Demonstrate how you will be able to make money with your profit and loss projection, cash flow projection, projected balance sheet, and a breakeven analysis
Have any questions about writing your business plan? Leave them in the comments section and our small business starting experts will answer them. Good luck with your business planning!