Many aspiring business owners may approach the task of writing a business plan with a “let’s get it over with” attitude; they may even try to completely avoid doing it. But this one seemingly inglorious, laborious task has the potential to save a lot of headache, heartache, and money down the road.
Why Every Aspiring Business Owner Needs to Write Up a Business Plan
Developing a business plan is one of the most important things you can do as you go through the initial stage of new business start-up even if you are not planning on seeking any outside investment of capital. It is a natural extension of the previous four steps in that it brings everything together into one, comprehensive big picture:
The real value of creating a business plan is not in having the finished product in hand; rather, the value lies in the process of researching and thinking about your business in a systematic way. The act of planning helps you to think things through thoroughly, study and research if you are not sure of the facts, and look at your ideas critically. It takes time now, but avoids costly, perhaps disastrous, mistakes later.
SCORE: Business Plan for a Startup Business
As with my previous posts in this frugal small business start-up series, my goal is not to delve deeply into the details of writing an effective business plan, but to merely introduce to the topic and then point you to some really good, free business resources that can help you with all those details.
The Basics: What Goes into a Start-up Business Plan?
The short answer to the question posed in the above section title is: everything, that is, all the important details related to your future business including: proposed product/service information, the industry, your strengths and weakness, and the resources involved. Sound like a lot? It is, and that’s why this document is so important. Here is a brief rundown of what should be included in a business plan for a company start-up:
- Your Mission Statement: This will be a concise outline of your business purpose and goals.
- Your Intended Product or Service: You should include a breakdown of the products you want to produce or offer as well as any research and development that you have done thus far. Be clear about how you want to manufacture, resell, or liquidate your product line. If you are service provider, then explain clearly what service(s) you offer.
- The Current Industry: You need to offer a snapshot of the industry you want to enter as well as any economic trends that may affect your target market and your methods of conducting business.
- Your Market and Marketing Strategies: Make sure to define your niche market as well as the marketing strategies you want to implement. This includes a breakdown of the current competition that currently exists in your intended market.
- The Business Setup and Structure: How will your new business be organized? Who will run it and how?
- Core Competencies and Weaknesses: You should also include a breakdown of you core strengths and the potential pitfalls that you may encounter, including how you plan on overcoming them.
- A Financial Assessment: You need to clearly define your capital needs as well as your projected income. Provide information about how you would handle cash flow problems.
Free Online Business Resources to Help Entrepreneurs Write a Start-up Business Plan
Aside from the sample business plan from SCORE mentioned above, here are some great resources you can go to for more information on making a business plan, including tutorials, templates, tools, and sample plans, as well as access to a counselor or mentor:
1. Myownbusiness.org– In session 2 of this free online business course you can learn the ins-and-outs of writing a business plan. It includes informative videos, sample plans, and a step-by-step guide.
2. Small Business Association– The SBA offers a collection of basic articles on writing a business start-up plan.
3. Allbusiness.com- AllBusiness has several, more specific articles on business plan creation, such as Integrating Sales and Marketing into Your Business Plan, as well as some downloadable templates.
4. SCORE– Aside from offering free mentoring services for new entrepreneurs, SCORE has several other resources for aspiring business owners needing to write a business plan, such as this online business workshop.
5. Bplans.com– Access over 500 free sample business plans