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Pre-Plan to Succeed

Every new business begins with a dream. But all the wishes and what-ifs that are likely banging around in your brain right now won’t be enough to sustain it. If you truly desire to become an entrepreneur, you need to pre-plan your success step by step, and commit it to paper. That’s called a business plan, and almost no one will take you or your business seriously without one.

 

Business Plan Basics

A business plan is a written document describing the nature of your business, how you plan to achieve your specific goals for this business and the profits you expect to gain as a result. Ideally, every business should have a written plan to use as an operational guide and for communicating its purpose and strategies to others. Furthermore, any business that intends to seek outside funding must have a formal plan in writing that addresses these topics:

What am I selling?

Who will buy my product or service? Who are my competitors?

How much will people be willing to pay for my product or service? Can I make a profit at this?

Do I/we have what it takes to succeed?

 

Business Plan Components

Think of your business plan as a road map for your journey to business success. Project your plans 3-5 years ahead, but know that you may need to adjust your speed or even switch direction as needs and parameters change. Include these titled sections:

Highlight key strengths of your plan, including where you want to take your company and why your idea will be successful.

Make this your extended “elevator pitch” to help readers, especially potential investors, quickly grasp the uniqueness of your business.

Show that you understand your industry, target market, customers, competitors and pricing structure.

Describe your company’s organizational structure, introduce ownership and members of your management team.

Emphasize the benefits you can provide to current and potential customers.

Explain how you plan to promote your product/service, create customers and boost sales.

Lay out your current and future funding requirements, the intended use of any funds you may receive and types of funding you would prefer.

Summarize your projected income and expenses, past credit history, intended allocation of resources and other financial details.

Include supporting information/documents: your credit history; letters of reference; resumes of key managers; leases; licenses, permits and/or patents; list of business consultants (attorney, accountant, etc.); relevant research, magazine articles or book references.

6 Secrets for a Better Business Plan

Package your plan in a loose-leaf binder that allows you to easily add, subtract and revise individual pages as new facts emerge.

Tell your story clearly and concisely; use hard facts; avoid flowery language.

Prove your worth to potential investors by identifying your target market; describing how your product or service is unique; and detailing your competitors’ strengths, weaknesses and estimated market share.

Introduce your management team; describe their previous accomplishments and show how they will bring their talents to this new venture.

Use concrete facts to back up claims. Instead of “ABC product is priced significantly less than its closest competitor, XYZ,” say: “By pricing ABC product 20% below XYZ, we’ll turn a quicker profit and recoup our costs within six months.”

Don’t give potential investors a reason to deny funding by pretending obstacles don’t exist; point them out, then present a detailed plan for how you will address each problem.

 

You don’t have to go it alone.

Writing a business plan is not as difficult as it sounds, and there is no need for you to reinvent the wheel. The following agencies offer many resources and services for both new and experienced entrepreneurs, most of which are available at no-cost or, in the case of some seminars and workshops, for a minimal fee:

U.S. Small Business Administration Access the complete list of business plan components and individual articles describing what to cover within each topic at www.sba.gov/starting-business/write-your-business-plan.

SCORE Senior volunteers, once themselves fledgling entrepreneurs, freely share their expertise by mentoring small business owners, one-on-one, in person and online, through more than 20 Florida-based chapters; also available: workshops, webinars, free tools and templates. www.SCORE.org

Florida SBDC Network The state’s principal provider of business assistance offers personalized consulting, plus training opportunities and a wealth of tools and data, at more than 40 offices throughout the state. www.floridasbdc.org

National Entrepreneur Center Founded in 2003, this Orlando-based “shared facility” is open to anyone seeking business advice and information; features include: one-on-one business coaching, low-cost seminars, networking events and an onsite business lab. www.nationalec.org.