You’ve launched your business, are servicing customers and moving product. But are you doing everything you need to be successful? What is your mission? Your vision? Your long-term strategies and the tactics that will help you achieve them? If you have a business plan, then you have the answers at your fingertips. If the responses to these questions are all up in your head instead of on paper you may be tempted to stray off strategy and waste time and money on tactics that won’t help you achieve your vision.
Do you need a 30+ page plan to be successful? Not necessarily. While a thorough plan with profit/loss statements and financial graphs are key to demonstrating viability to potential investors, having a concise plan that hits on major points can be the difference between establishing your business on a solid footing versus slippery territory.
A business plan should:
– Be effective. A one-page plan can be a great tool to jump-start your business while bringing focus to key aspects of running a successful company. Think critically about every word that you write. This is a time to be laser focused rather than verbose.
– Feature imagery. Give your customer a face to go along with your target market description. The more description you can provide about your customers, the more insights you can derive from their behavior.
– Have fluidity. Review your plan every quarter if you are in high growth mode to re-evaluate strategies and tactics. Otherwise, review every six months at a minimum. Have you gained any customer insights that shed new light on your target market? Add them. Discovered a new competitor? Gather critical information and house it here.
– Not be white-boarded. I am a white-board lover. But in conjunction with writing your business plan, white boards and business plans do not go hand in hand. Just as easily as you sketch out your broad strokes on a white board, they can be easily erased. Your business plan shouldn’t be able to be wiped away with a finger tip.
– Be completed prior to seeking investments. If you are considering a crowdfunding campaign or a loan pitch at your bank, a plan expanded to include high-level financial information is right for you. However, even if you are pleading your case to family members, think twice about asking for funding until you have a clear plan on how to recoup their investment.
Whether your business has a one page or a hundred page plan, you’re on the right track if you have it down on paper. Don’t know where to start? The Small Business Administration (SBA.gov) has resources to begin the process. From the executive summary to 3-5 year projections, if you follow their lead you’ll have a solid plan to proudly share with investors. See the benefits of establishing a plan but still feeling overwhelmed? A business plan boot-camp might be right for you. Whether you are an existing business geared for growth or a brand new start-up, the most important step is creating a smart plan. When it’s complete, take a step back and pat yourself on the back. It’s an accomplishment that will serve your business well for years to come.
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