The plan illuminates your vision, mission, values and goals. Starting with a very broad brush, your vision should paint a picture of what people will see when they look at your business several years in the future. Your mission more narrowly defines your business purpose and the specific activities in which it will engage to achieve your vision. Your values are the basic business and ethical principles that will guide your policy and operational decisions. And your goals will quantify the financial and operational accomplishments your plan will achieve within a specific time frame.
Where Do You Start?
A first, critical step in developing the plan is to conduct extensive research into the market in order to validate your vision and gauge the profit potential of the business. Much of the business plan and the marketing strategies developed in it will stem from your knowledge of this market, including competition, demographics, consumer attitudes, product or service positioning, pricing, and market direction.
How Can it Help You Succeed?
Your business plan is essentially the framework for an action plan that prompts your business activities and guides your decisions so you can achieve your vision, mission and goals. Whereas the business goals are the “what” to be achieved, specific objectives, strategies and tactics are the “how” to achieve them. As goals are broken down into objectives, strategies and action plans, the steps become more defined which makes it easier to measure your progress and stay on target.
A good business plan is not only a navigational instrument, it is also a decision-making and accountability tool replete with roles, responsibilities, benchmarks and timelines. Deliverables and milestones can be measured against the goals and objectives to help gauge your business’ progress toward achieving your vision. As a blueprint, the business plan should be subject to constant evaluation so progress is measurable and any adjustments are made where needed.
What Type of Details are Included?
The plan should include profit and loss projections, capital investment needs, and a cash flow forecast that projects revenue growth through the first few years of the business. Additionally, the forecast should include expenditures for hiring employees, adding equipment and other business infrastructure needs as the business grows. For anyone to consider your plan seriously, particularly investors, they will need to see a realistic path to profitability and documentation for your plan assumptions..
What’s the Best Way to Build a Plan?
Whether you are new to business planning or have prepared business plans for years, using a software product or a business plan template is the easiest way to make sure you address all the required plan elements. A software package, like Business Plan Pro has the advantage of easily producing all your P & L’s and cash flow statements based on walking you through your revenue and expense projections. Why struggle with spreadsheets when a software program will handle it for you. It’s a very cost-effective way to develop a credible plan.
Just Do It!
Whether you write it from scratch, use a template or an affordable software program, the plan creation process will help you to focus your thoughts and the details of how to launch and succeed in your business. This plan should be reviewed at least annually and adjusted as new information, markets or economic variables become known.