Be A Man – or Woman – With A Plan
When you have a great idea that you want to share with the world, you want to share it with the world as soon as possible. (Remember the end of “Harry Met Sally”? Yeah, it’s like that.) Our current “Fail big, fail often” culture certainly encourages rushing to market but there is a case for slowing down to get your great idea outlined in a business plan before going too far.
We’ve already explained the “when” of doing a business plan. (In case you missed it the answer is A.S.A.P!) Now let’s go through the Who, What, Why, and Hows of doing one.
Why bother writing a business plan?
A business plan often seems like something only a large enterprise should do, but it really benefits companies of all sizes. Planning creates a foundation; according to a recent study of entrepreneurs, those “who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs.” Taking the time to think deeply about your business helps you identify potential weaknesses or problems so you can find solutions early. Also, if you ever want to look for external financing, a solid business plan will go far in convincing banks and investors that you are running an organized company.
Who is going to look at it?
Who isn’t going to look at it! Well, that’s an exaggeration, but parts (or all) of the plan can be shared with investors, banks, employees, and partners. It may help a business coach better understand your goals. Even your graphic designer can benefit from some of the information in your plan, such as the mission statement and company description.
What are we going to use it for?
Unfortunately, some people create a business plan, check it off the list, then put it in a drawer, never to be seen again. A business plan should be a living document. It can be referred to when applying for grants, loans, and trying to attract investors. It can even become the basis for the copy on your website and social media profiles. As your company grows and evolves, so should your business plan. You wouldn’t go on a road trip without a map, why should you run your company that way? (Well, maybe you would go on a road trip like that, but you get what I mean.)
Okay, you convinced me, how do I write one?
Score, a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses, provides an excellent business plan template. They provide detailed explanations and worksheets to guide you through writing your plan. (And, it’s free, did we mention that?) Some parts of the template may not work for you, however, most of it applies to all industries.
Be honest with yourself as you research and write your business plan. It does not help you to gloss over potential obstacles. Also, keep your writing simple; any person outside your industry should be able to understand most of your plan. Most importantly, take your time, be thoughtful, and don’t be afraid to go back and edit things as you grow.