Put Your Plans in Writing
While it’s true that the very idea of owning a business begins in your head, it won’t stay there for long. Even if you’re only a little bit serious about becoming an entrepreneur, the very idea of going solo will nag at you. Can I do this? Should I do this? What will other people think?
It doesn’t matter what other people think. This is your moment. If you want to launch a new business and you have determined that the time is right, then do it. But be smart about it.
Develop a written plan that encapsulates your vision of the company you want to lead and describe the nature of the business you have in mind. What makes it stand out from others? What goals will you set and how will you reach them? What can you bring to the table that is different, unique? How much profit do you anticipate as a result? Who will you call on for help when you need it? Questions like these will ensure that you stay on track as you shape a workable plan.
Maybe your business will succeed, maybe it won’t. But at this point in the evolutionary process of birthing a brand-new entity, what do you have to lose except a little time, right? Seems a pretty fair tradeoff when you consider that no potential investor — and that includes even your own friendly long-time banker — will take you seriously unless you can show him or her a written business plan.
Nine essential components of a business plan
01 / Executive Summary
Highlights the key strengths of your plan, including where you want to take your company and why your idea will be successful.
02 / Company Description
Your extended “elevator pitch” to help readers, especially potential investors, quickly grasp the uniqueness of your business.
03 / Market Analysis
Demonstrates that you understand your industry, target market, customers, competitors and pricing structure.
04 / Organization and Management
Describes your company’s organizational structure and introduces the principals and key members of your management team.
05 / Service or Product Line
Emphasizes the benefits you can provide to current and potential customers.
06 / Marketing and Sales
A glimpse of how you plan to promote your product or service, create customers and boost sales.
07 / Funding Request
Lays out current and future funding requirements; provides insight into how you will use any funds you may receive and the types of funding you prefer.
08 / Financial Projections
Summarizes projected income and expenses, past credit history, intended allocation of resources and other financial details.
09 / Appendix
Provides supporting information and documents, including but not limited to: your credit history; letters of reference; resumes of key managers; leases; licenses, permits and/or patents; a list of business consultants (attorney, accountant, etc.); relevant research, magazine articles or book references.
Aim to stand out from the competition
Package your plan in a loose-leaf binder: It’s easier to make revisions as conditions change.
Be thorough but concise: Make your case with hard facts, avoid fluff.
Do your homework: Speak to your target market and be ready to address obstacles that may come up.
Tout your strengths with evidence: Avoid hyperbole. Quantify your statements with facts.
Make it personal: Introduce your management team members by name and stress their individual talents.