Business Plan Writing – The Do’s & Don’ts
Business plans are for funding your business – or are they? A business plan is how you drive the future; it’s a roadmap for even the smallest idea or earliest stage of your idea. When writing your plan, it is important to challenge your ideas and financial calculations. It’s a serious, critical thinking exercise that can help:
create a business that works
offer customers consistent value
deliver good service
develop great systems
project a professional image
the business operate without you
Details of your business plan
Creating a professional business plan may take a bit more time, but will result in more success and less stress when running your business. The plan should have a cover page and table of contents. Colours should be used carefully according to your logo or other branding elements and the layout should be clean and consistent. Be sure to keep your plan short and easy to read. Ten pages should be enough as long as they include the following:
Executive Summary: This is the highlight of your plan. It should only be written when your entire plan has been completed. The Executive summary should include your mission statement and business vision, goals and objectives, a description of your products or services and the target market.
Business Description: The business description generally begins with a brief description of the industry. You should be sure to identify and discuss your business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; this is known as a SWOT analysis.
Market Strategies: Market strategies are the result of a meticulous market analysis. A market analysis forces the entrepreneur to become familiar with all aspects of the market so that the target market can be defined and you can find the best way to connect customers to your product/service.
Competitive Analysis: The purpose of the competitive analysis is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors within your market and highlight strategies that will provide you with a distinct advantage.
Design & Development: The purpose of the design and development plan section is to provide a description of the product’s design, chart its development within the context of production, marketing and the company itself, and create a development budget that will enable the company to reach its goals and objectives.
Operations & Sales: This is designed to describe just how the business functions on a continual basis. The operations plan will highlight the logistics of the organization such as the various responsibilities of the management team, the tasks assigned to each division within the company, and capital and expense requirements related to the operations of the business. Carefully think through the impact of sales on your operations when preparing this section.
Financial Planning: Financial planning forecasts revenue and expenses. It highlights cash flow, breakeven and profitability. A good startup budget includes generous amounts for six months of expenses and no money from sales. You will need to total up your costs for equipment, hardware, rent, utility bills, marketing materials, travel allowance and legal fees. Make sure you know your financing requirements and where you intend to find your financial resources.
Appendices: The last section of your business plan should include reference items and supporting documents such as sample surveys, product illustrations, floor plans, market research data, supplier list etc.
Standing out from the Crowd
Is the market you serve the best one for your product or service? Are the benefits of dealing with your business clear and are they aligned with customer needs? Maybe you need to take a step back and revisit the foundation of your business plan. The following tips can help you clarify what your business has to offer, identify the right target market for it and build a niche for yourself.
Be clear about your offer
Beyond basic products or services, what are you really selling? Be clear about your goals and what you want to achieve with your plan. When starting a business, be sure to understand what makes your business unique. What needs does your product or service fulfill? What will help your business stand out from the crowd?
Don’t become a jack-of-all-trades – Learn to strategize
It’s important to clearly define what you’re selling. You do not want to become a jack-of-all trades and master of none because this can have a negative impact on business growth. As a smaller business, it’s often a better strategy to divide your products or services into manageable market niches. Small operations can then offer specialized goods and services that are attractive to a specific group of prospective buyers.
Identify your niche
Creating a niche for your business is essential to success. Often, business owners can identify a niche based on their own market knowledge, but it can also be helpful to conduct a market survey with potential customers to uncover untapped needs. During your research process, identify the following:
In which areas are your competitors already entrenched?
Which areas are being ignored by your competitors?
Where are your potential opportunities for your business?
Remember, it’s your plan; you must do the thinking and make the decisions presented.
- Create a business plan using Scotiabank’s interactive Scotia Plan Writer for Business – http://www.scotiabank.com/intl/tools/en/planwriter/scotia_sb.html?country=JAMAICA
Have a professional look over your plan.