Real Entrepreneurs. Real Questions. Real Answers.
Aren’t business plans reserved for BIG businesses? It feels almost silly to spend the necessary time to plot out extensive business plans for such a small business.
Let’s stop right there. One of the most critical steps you take toward being a successful entrepreneur is to compose a business plan. A business plan, as I intend its use for today’s conversation, is a tool created mainly for an audience of one: You. This plan becomes your focus, your sense of direction, and your accountability. This isn’t the full-blown version that lenders require if you are seeking funding for your new launch.
A business plan requires you to think strategically. How can you get where you’re going, in strange territory, without a map? Your business plan is your map. Don’t start the trip without it.
A business plan forces us to focus on the who, what, when, why, and how. It is a vital part of your business. Use it to establish your goals and provide direction not just at the onset, but continually refer to your plan and make revisions as necessary to keep updated. If you get sidetracked along the way, refer back to your plan. Knowing the right direction keeps you on course.
Your business plan should be simple, specific, and realistic. However, you do need to it to be complete. Which means you will need to address your vision, your mission, your objectives, any advisory team, as well as specific dates for implementation and completion of goals and projects.
Be sure to include a budget, a location, your target market, the services to be offered, your methods of follow up, and your marketing and public relations strategies.
It’s really not as intimidating as it sounds. It is simply a plan. You make plans on a daily basis, right? Entrepreneurs who have designed and implemented their business plans readily admit a great degree of insight and satisfaction was obtained from walking through the process. As they created their business plan they discovered clarity, established priorities and unearthed a new confidence for their businesses.
Listed below are a few online resources that offer instruction, sample business plans, and templates. Choose a simple one and start filling it in using the answers you’ve just constructed.
The Small Business Association (SBA) – provides free business counseling and training. Online, they offer a business plan tutorial at http://www.sba.gov/smallbusinessplanner/index.html
Another link provides additional insight into writing your plan at http://www.sba.gov/smallbusinessplanner/plan/writeabusinessplan/index.html . Or, call 800.634.0245 to locate an office near you.
The Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE) – provides confidential business advice. They offer a Business Plan template for start-up businesses at www.score.org/template_gallery.html.
There are several free online templates. Here are a few to get started:
http://www.innovateurs.com/models.html (Click on businessplan.doc)
http://www.nolo.com (Click on business and human resources)
http://www.thebeehive.org (Click on starting and owning a business)
Readers, what do you think? What are some successful strategies you have used in your planning your businesses?
Need help surviving in the business world? Submit your entrepreneurial questions to Diane at email@example.com. Please note that all questions selected for public display may be edited for clarity and privacy and become the property of NACWE.