Mention business plan, and watch the eyes roll, the head drop, the stifled ugh! Writing a business plan – or a life plan – can be cumbersome at best, and at worst – so intimidating we walk away from the entire opportunity!
Don’t feel alone, and don’t despair. Writing a plan for your business or your life can be fast, uncomplicated and unless you intend to buy Zappos, your business plan doesn’t need to kill a forest. First, and foremost, overcome this fear and don’t allow the process of creating a business plan interfere or stall your progress of launching your business. Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be amazed.
Start by making your plan the same size as your business – small! Let’s not turn this into a modern-day version of War and Peace. Less than 10 pages should provide you with the strategic plan, financials and marketing to get you started. Please re-read the previous sentence – paying particular attention to the first word – Less. The purpose of the plan is to define where you are going and how you are going to get there….not every detail, possibility, consideration or step along the way. At this point in your venture, be brief!!
Cover the basics in your plan – you can always expand and add components later. Include an outline of financial requirements (such as sales forecasts and expenses) and resources. Clearly identify your target market and include some research on your market – easy to find doing a Google search. List your assumptions and identify benchmarks you will use to determine your progress. Using bullet points is a great way to go and it prevents you from getting ‘carried away’ in the moment!
On-line resources are readily available. The Small Business Association (www.SBA.gov) has tons of free information, templates and suggestions. Also, check out your local SCORE chapter or visit www.score.org. Remember, asking for help is required – you can’t be an expert at everything! (more on this shortly.)
Have a contingency plan in case your business launch does not meet the benchmarks you have established. Everyone wants his or her business to succeed, not every business succeeds. Know when it is time to step away or try a new approach. Look at options and be open to trying new ideas. Keep the blinders in the drawer and your eyes open to opportunities. One of the beauties of a small business is flexibility, adaptability and opportunity.
Ask for help from people in the ‘know’. Make the distinction between well-meaning friends and/or family and trusted mentors or experts. Put your ego in your pocket and listen to those who have gone before you. They can prevent you from making their mistakes, which means you reach your benchmarks more quickly, and with less pain! There are three reasons why new businesses fail – primarily. The second reason is that the owner didn’t ask for help from experts. Make sure your business becomes a success statistic by aligning yourself with experts.
Revisit your plan monthly the first year. Update the content to keep it current. Your plan is a living document rather than a stagnant dust collector. It is a tool for you to use, so use it! Review, re-evaluate, re-assess – this process is essential for you and your business!
Status quo is the death knell for business – keep your business alive and thriving by staying current with trends, in front of your target audience and you’ll smile all the way to the bank!