As a small business owner, you may wonder, “Is it really worth having a business plan. It’s tough for me to take the time away from running my business to write one? Or are they only needed when I’m seeking funding?”
Business Plans are more than a funding tool, they are critical in providing clear direction for your business.
Your business plan IS a requirement for your funding institution, however in the course of planning or running your successful business, they are equally important and should not be overlooked.
I strongly urge you to carve out the time from your busy schedule to think about your business – this act of working ON your business rather than just IN your business is sometimes a difficult thing for small business owners who feel they have to do it all.
By working ON your business, you put yourself in planning and projection mode – the direction you want your business to take, how you want it to grow, what you want to achieve, how much money you want to earn. What plans do you need to put in place to achieve some of these things?
A well written business plan will help you understand all aspects of your business, monitor progress, hold you accountable and ultimately control the direction of your business.
Creating a plan can be a visual or written exercise. A visual exercise is accomplished by brainstorming, pictorial style, where you literally draw your plan – great for the artistic folks who don’t like a linear approach.
There is something very tactical about putting pen to paper, (whether you are writing on paper or drawing it out), rather than typing on a computer. We think better, more creatively, when we write or draw vs type on a screen.
Either way it forces you to look at every aspect of your business, including your unique selling proposition, marketing, communications, operations and financial forecasting.
A Business plan should include:
- Your vision, mission & values. This section can be simply the Vision and Mission for your business. But if you want to lead a heart-centered business then use your personal Vision, Mission & Values to drive the heart of your business. This personal approach will form a solid foundation and will be reflected in all touch points you have with customers, employees, philanthropy and your community.
- Your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis).
- Marketing Strategy – how you are promoting your product or service and then communicating it to your target audience.
- Sales Strategy – the sales processes and systems to maximize your sales potential online and offline.
- Operations Strategy – the glue that holds your business together.
- Profitability – the whole money piece – financial forecasting, tracking sales & expenses, cash flow, pricing, cost analysis, to name only a few.
Each of the above sections will have goals and action items defined, so you’re not left with a framework and no actionable items.
Business Plans do not need to take weeks to write, but they do require thought. Reflection on what you have attained to this point and projection for what you desire as future goals is a good way to approach the planning process.
Once completed, this comprehensive plan for your business will help you make decisions faster and with more clarity, set and attain goals and provide the beacon to lead your business.
For those business owners who have a business plan, who reviews it every 3, 6, 9, 12 months? Who shelve it or put it in a drawer? The comprehensive plan you create is a living breathing document and is an organic process. It should not be shelved, but rather used as the roadmap to guide your business. If reviewed consistently, it will evolve as your business grows and changes.
So go ahead… Start. Create. Review. Get your business on the right track by having a solid plan to follow.
Deb Alcadinho is a business advisor and educator for small business owners and entrepreneurs. She’s a serial entrepreneur and a champion for female business owners. www.yourbrandpower.com