Imagine flying into a strange city, renting a car and trying to find your way around without a map. You might eventually reach your destination, but not without making some detours along the way.
This is exactly what you’re doing in your business if you don’t have a business plan. It’s your road map to business success, and without one, you’re in danger of missing the on-ramp.
To take the map analogy a little further: Your plan can be as simple as a hand-drawn map getting you from A to B, or an Atlas with detailed listings of all the points of interest along the way.
>> RELATED: Free Sample Business Plans
The point is, if you are thinking of starting your own business, taking the time to create a plan will help you to focus on the issues necessary for your success. And if your venture is already in operation, the plan can keep you focused and remind you of what’s important when you find yourself getting sidetracked.
What Does a Good Business Plan Do?
A good business plan:
Defines Your Venture
Describes your products and/or services, depicts your market, and details how you plan to do it (get your product to the market). Also pinpoints where you plan to do business (and why) and profiles the skills and experience key management (that’s you!) brings to the table.
Surveys the Business Environment
Shows how your business fits within the existing marketplace. Identifies your market’s needs and how you will fill them. Describes how you will be different (i.e., better) than competing businesses serving the same market or how you will be creating a new market.
Estimates Your Financials
Specifies your fixed costs and other expenses, lists assets and funding sources, projects revenues and cash flow and points out your risks.
Writing your business plan is meant to be thought-provoking, but it need not be difficult — even if you also need it to obtain funding (and if you are planning to get a loan or grant, you *will* have to present a professionally written plan).
Resources on Business Plan
Fortunately, there are several sources — both offline and on the Web — to help guide you through the process:
Free Sample Business Plans
Check out PowerHomeBiz.com’s Free Sample Business Plans section for a listing of completed business plans for different industries and businesses.
My favorites are “Mompreneurs,” by Ellen H. Parlapiano and Patricia Cobe and “The Stay-at-Home Mom’s Guide to Making Money,” by Liz Folger. You can find both at your local library or bookstore or order from your favorite online book site. (Don’t let the focus on mothers prevent you from checking these out; both offer solid home business advice regardless of your parental status. Both include detailed worksheets that guide you through much of the process).
Don’t forget the U.S. government’s best small business friend, the SBA. They offer an online tutorial on the subject: http://www.sba.gov/tools/business-plan/1
Finally, both the SBA and SCORE are dedicated to helping new entrepreneurs get a leg up on their journey. They sponsor free and low-cost seminars on every aspect of small business start-ups. To see what’s being offered in your part of the country, check out http://www.sba.gov/
Hopefully, your entrepreneurial journey will be an adventure lasting many successful years, giving you plenty of opportunity to check your “roadmap” to see if you’re making your marks and revise your itinerary as needed. Just as maps are reissued as new roads are built and rivers change course, your business plan is a living, breathing document reflecting changes in the environment around you. Refer to often it along the way and you won’t get left behind!
Recommended Books and Products on Business Plans:
About the Author:
- Myths and Realities of Business Plans
- Basics of a Business Plan
- How to Raise Money to Finance a Franchise
- What is an Investor Ready Business Plan?
- Why Business Plans Fail
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