There’s an old adage that states ‘A business that fails to plan plans to fail.’ One of the top reasons that new businesses fail or enjoy limited success is lack of or ineffective planning. The bottom line is this: you can have the best idea in the world but it is only as good as how well it is put onto paper. The best way to do this is with a business plan and I know in saying this that I am not exactly turning you onto the mother lode.
Business plans are nothing new in the world of business and you may even already have one. That said, there may be some additional applications for the business plan that can help you continue to grow and prosper. Just to summarize, you want to make sure that your business plan contains the following key elements.
First, a business plan should have some sort of summary. This is particularly effective for entrepreneurs who seek venture capital. Many venture capitalists or angel investors read a lot of proposals and see a lot of business plans so a captivating opening summary is a great way to capture and retain their interest. A summary should outline the key aspects of your business, contain some sort of mission statement, and hit the highlights of why the reader should keep turning the pages and learn more.
Next, a business plan should outline the key features of your business. How was the idea or product generated? How is it unique? What makes you and/or your business stand apart from the competition? What market share can you expect to capture with the business running at full steam? In this part of your business plan, you may want to include a detailed description of your products and/or services, especially if they make a compelling argument for why your business stands apart from the crowd.
Next, you will want to include some operational information that outlines how your business is being run. Who are your customers? Why do they want the product or service? How is your business currently being marketed? Who are your current staff, what are their roles, and what growth in staffing do you expect? Answers to these types of questions not only keep you focused, but also address key issues that potential funding sources will need to know.
Next, you will want to include some projections for things like the scope of your customer base, staffing, business volume, and revenue for at least the next five years. Remember, this will not only be appealing to potential funding sources, but will also help keep you on track to reach those goals as your business grows.
Last, a business plan should clearly outline the financial needs of your company. As you might gather, any sort of funding source for your business is going to want to know how much capital you need to reach your goals. Also, you need to be thinking about your capital needs long before you ever seek outside capital. Lack of funding is also a common reason why businesses fail so make sure this is not an overlooked part of your planning process.
In closing, treat the preparation and updating of your business plan as the owner’s manual for what you are working to achieve. In doing so, you will be able to effectively attract capital (as needed) and it will also serve as a sort of written contract between you and your business and it can be remarkable how real your business dreams can unfold, just as planned.
DDr. Matt Fagerness is an educator, venture capitalist, business consultant, and author who has touched the lives of those who are looking to build upon their own dreams of success. Focusing on written materials and coaching services for success-driven and business-minded people, Dr. Fagerness has a no-nonsense approach to starting and building small busine