Every business needs to have a written business plan. Whether it’s to provide direction or attract investors, a business plan is vital for the success for your organization. But, how do you write a business plan?
However, getting started may be difficult to do. So, here are seven steps for writing a perfect business plan.
1. research, research.
“Research and analyze your product, your market and your objective expertise,” William Pirraglia, a now-retired senior financial and management executive, has written. “Consider spending twice as much time researching, evaluating and thinking as you spend actually writing the business plan.
“To write the perfect plan, you must know your company, your product, your competition and the market intimately.”
In other words, it’s your responsibility to know everything you can about your business and the industry that you’re entering. Read everything you can about your industry and talk to your audience.
2. Determine the purpose of your plan.
A business plan, as defined by Entrepreneur, is a “written document describing the nature of the business, the sales and marketing strategy, and the financial background, and containing a projected profit and loss statement.” However, your business plan can serve several different purposes.
As Entrepreneur notes, it’s “also a road map that provides directions so a business can plan its future and helps it avoid bumps in the road.” That’s important to keep in mind if you’re self-funding or bootstrapping your business. But, if you want to attract investors, your plan will have a different purpose and you’ll have to write a plan that targets them so it will have to be as clear and concise as possible. When you define your plan, make sure you have defined these goals personally as well.
3. Create a company profile.
Your company profile includes the history of your organization, what products or services you offer, your target market and audience, your resources, how you’re going to solve a problem and what makes your business unique. When I crafted my company profile, I put this on our About page.
Company profiles are often found on the company’s official website and are used to attract possible customers and talent. However, your profile can be used to describe your company in your business plan. It’s not only an essential component of your business plan; it’s also one of the first written parts of the plan.
Having your profile in place makes this step a whole lot easier to compose.
4. Have a strategic marketing plan in place.
A great business plan will always include a strategic and aggressive marketing plan. This typically includes achieving marketing objectives such as:
- Introducing new products
- Extending or regaining market for existing products
- Entering new territories for the company
- Boosting sales in a particular product, market or price range. Where will this business come from? Be specific.
- Cross-selling (or bundling) one product with another
- Entering into long-term contracts with desirable clients
- Raising prices without cutting into sales figures
- Refining a product
- Having a content marketing strategy
- Enhancing manufacturing/product delivery
“Each marketing objective should have several goals (subsets of objectives) and tactics for achieving those goals,” states Entrepreneur.
“In the objectives section of your marketing plan, you focus on the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of the marketing tasks for the year ahead. In the implementation section, you focus on the practical, sweat-and-calluses areas of who, where, when and how. This is life in the marketing trenches.”
Of course, achieving marketing objectives will have costs. “Your marketing plan needs to have a section in which you allocate budgets for each activity planned,” Entrepreneur says. It would be beneficial for you to create separate budgets for for internal hours (staff time) and external costs (out-of-pocket expenses).
Three rules that make business planning easier:
Before you get started with your business plan, let’s talk about some “rules” that will make the whole business planning process easier. The goal is to get your business plan done so you can focus on building your business.
1. Keep it short
Business plans should be short and concise. The reasoning for that is twofold:
- First, you want your business plan to be read (and no one is going to read a 100-page or even 40-page business plan).
- Second, your business plan should be a tool you use to run and grow your business, something you continue to use and refine over time. An excessively long business plan is a huge hassle to revise—you’re almost guaranteed that your plan will be relegated to a desk drawer, never to be seen again.
2. Know your audience
Write your plan using language that your audience will understand.
For example, if your company is developing a complex scientific process, but your prospective investors aren’t scientists, avoid jargon, or acronyms that won’t be familiar.
Instead of this:
“Our patent-pending technology is a one-connection add-on to existing bCPAP setups. When attached to a bCPAP setup, our product provides non-invasive dual pressure ventilation.”
“Our patent-pending product is a no power, easy-to-use device that replaces traditional ventilator machines used in hospitals at 1/100th the cost.”
Accommodate your investors, and keep explanations of your product simple and direct, using terms that everyone can understand. You can always use the appendix of your plan to provide the full specs if needed.
3. Don’t be intimidated
Did you know that the vast majority of business owners and entrepreneurs aren’t business experts? They don’t have MBAs or accounting degrees. They’re learning as they go and finding tools and resources to help them.
Writing a business plan may seem like a big hurdle, but it doesn’t have to be. You know your business—you’re the expert on it. For that reason alone, writing a business plan and then leveraging your plan for growth won’t be nearly as challenging as you think.
And you don’t have to start with the full, detailed business plan that I’m going to describe here. In fact, it can be much easier to start with a simple, one-page business plan—what we call a Lean Plan—and then come back and build a slightly longer, more detailed business plan later.
The rest of this article will dive into the specifics of what you should include in your business plan, what you should skip, the critical financial projections, and links to additional resources that can help jump-start your plan.