Why Make a Business Plan?

In many cases business plans are very important but so much of the time it’s a plan to try to convince someone else that you know what you are doing with your business like banks, investors, partners, etc. Now it’s true that a well written business plan can also be a major benefit to your success as well if done right. It can guide you and keep you on track and can be the vehicle to get you were you want to be especially with so many outside forces now days that bombard you. A plan can be extremely important to your success especially when you look at the statistics that says 51% of small businesses fail sometime during their first 5 years.

So why make a business plan? I want to show you a totally different kind of business plan. What if you made a business plan that focused only on what you want for your life? You have dreams about what you would like your lifestyle to be, right? Why not make a business plan that could give you those dreams? What would your business look like if it gave you exactly what you want in life. What kind of salary would your business need to give you? Why not build a business plan around that? Decide how much salary you would need to support your dreams and then build a business plan that would show exactly how your business could give you that. Wouldn’t it be better to have your business work for you instead of the other way around?

Did you ever stop and think what a unique position you’re in as a business owner? I don’t know of any other way you can have as much control over your success than owning a business. When you work for someone else, you are totally at their mercy as to what your future may be like. It doesn’t matter whether it is a private business you work for or a large corporation. Your future is in their hands. The only thing that might qualify other than owning a business would be to inherit or win a lot of money that would give you everything you want in life.

So, why make a business plan the normal way when you could first make one that could give you what you want in life? Have you ever thought about doing a plan like that? Would you know how? Would you have the time to do it?

Well if you don’t or not sure, let’s at least see what’s involved.

Here are the steps you would need to take.

First, you would need to know all your current business numbers. This will be the basis for the plan. You’re going to need to know:

1. What your current average monthly sales are
2. What your current average monthly material cost is
3. What your current average monthly labor cost is
4. What your current average monthly fixed expenses are
5. What your current average monthly variable expenses are
6. What your average number of transactions per customer per month are
7. What your average dollar sale per transaction is
8. What your average monthly profit is
9. What your average monthly profit margin is
10. And what % capacity your business is at right now

Second, decide what you want your salary to be

Third, determine how many years in the future you want to plan for

Fourth, you will need to know:

1. What % is your material cost of sales?
2. What % is your labor cost of sales?
3. And what % is your variable expense of sales?

Why do you need to know these percentages? As your sales increases or decreases, your material cost, labor cost, and variable expenses will track accordingly. They will track very close to the same % as your current business. As an example, let’s say your current sales is averaging $100,000 per month and your material cost is averaging $20,000 per month. That’s 20% of your sales ($20,000 ├Ě $100,000 = 20%). So, what would your material cost be if your sales were averaging $200,000 per month? It would still be 20% but it would be 20% of $200,000 or $40,000. So with these percentages, you can project your material, labor and variable expenses. See how it works?

But your fixed expenses don’t do this. They remain the same no matter what sales does. That’s why it’s call fixed. These are expenses like rent, taxes, utilities, phone, salaries, insurance, etc. A lot of business owners never consider this. They just lump all their expenses together. But you could never make an accurate plan if you combine all your expenses together. If you project your sales higher and want to know what your expenses will be, you have to separate your fixed and variable.

So, thinking about this principle, let me ask you a question. If your sales grew 10% and nothing else changed, would your profit margin be higher, the same, or less? Profit margin is % of profit against sales

If you said the profit margin would be higher, then you are right. Why would your profit be higher? If you said because of the fixed expenses, you would be right. Your material cost, labor cost, and variable expenses would have gone up 10% but your fixed expenses would have remained the same. You brought in more revenue because of more sales and you spent 10 % more on material, labor, and variable expense to cover the extra sales, but you didn’t spend any more on your fixed expenses. So, less overall expenses, would give you higher profit margin. Make sense?

So, let’s see how we would make a business plan that would show exactly how your business could give you the salary you want.

First you would determine what you would like your salary to be. You’ve dreamed about having a nice income to support your dreams I’m sure. Let’s say right now you only make what your profit is giving you which might not be much. So let’s say the first year, next year, you would love to have a consistent monthly salary of $4,000 a month, every month. And every year you would like to be able to increase it so that after 10 years it would be at $10,000 per month. And let’s say you would like to grow your business 10% each year.

So, what would your business look like over the next 10 years to give you that?

Could you build a plan that would show exactly how your business could do that?

It would show what your sales, fixed expenses, material cost, labor cost, and variable expenses would need to be. It should also show you how many customers you would need and would show you what your profit and profit margins would be each year.

All it takes is your current business numbers as we listed earlier and you can make a business plan as many years out as you like.

Now, in addition, when you know the average number of transactions per customer and you know your average dollar sale per transaction, you can also project how many customers you would need over those 10 years as well. This would tell you everything about what your business would need to do to give you the salary you want.

So, wouldn’t it be nice to see what a plan like this would look like? Could you do it? It might not be as tough as you might think.

There is no doubt it would take some time and would require a lot of calculations, but when you understand these principles and know how to put it together, you could probably do it. What do you think? Have you ever thought about doing a plan like this? It’s actually kind of in reverse. You decide what you want and let your business give you that.

Now assuming you did do this and it looked reasonable to you, how would you go about making it happen? What approach would you use? This could be a little harder. Well let me show you something. It might be easier than you think.

Did you know there are 7 ways to increase profit in business? If we decided to grow our business, most likely the first thing we would think about would be to add more customers. Adding customers will increase sales and as we seen above can increase profit as well, but it might not be the most effective way to increase profit. Take a look at these and see which ones you think could work for you. Would it be to:

1. Add more customers?
2. Increase your transactions per customer?
3. Increase your average dollar sale per transaction?
4. Decrease your fixed expenses?
5. Decrease your variable expenses?
6. Decrease your material cost?
7. Or decrease your labor cost?

What’s more important, sales or profit? Profit is what generates your salary. You could actually make more profit with less sales. Less sales could actually be less work. The most important thing for a business is to make money. That’s profit. Now some might say, I don’t care so much about making a lot of money. I like the freedom of owning a business. Well that is probably true, but if you don’t watch your profit, you might lose that freedom.

It’s always amazed me how most businesses, even very large ones, talk about how much their sales are. You hear comments like, that’s a $10,000,000 company. But what’s a $10,000,000 company if it has no profit. Now I do admit that 2% net profit of $10,000,000 is a lot bigger than 2% of $1,000,000 but most likely the large one carries a lot more headaches too.

Maybe it would be much better to have focused on profit than sales. What if profit had been the focus instead of sales. What if this could have been the result?

$10,000,000 x 2% = $200,000 profit
$1,000,000 x 25% = $250,000 profit

So when using one or more of these 7 ways to increase profit, the first one (adding more customers) might be the one you want to focus on last. It’s probably more expensive

Now, if you had your plan completed and it showed what your business needed to do over the next 10 years to give you the salary and profit you wanted, the next thought would be how do I make it happen. Well the best way would be to take it one year at a time. Concentrate on next year first and then choose one or more of 2 through 7 to work on before trying to add customers.

As an example, let’s say your current average number of transactions per month per customer is 3.0. Which says on average each customer does business with you 3 times each month. You could calculate how much more profit you would get if you could increase it to 3.5. And I can tell you that would probably be enough to meet your plan. And if that did generate enough profit, all you would have to do is maintain everything else; sales, expenses, labor, average dollar sale, etc, and then just figure out how you could increase your transactions from 3.0 to 3.5. Maybe it could be with some type of promotion that would get customers to come in more often.

Once you chose which one or more of the 7 you want to use and calculate exactly how much impact they have on meeting your plan, you would now have a definite approach on how to make your plan work.

It seems simple. At that’s what it’s all about. It’s about how to make your plan work the easiest and smartest way you can eliminating all the guesswork or trial and error methods. Want to increase your profit? This is a good way to do it.

So, you see, once you decide which of the 7 ways you’re going to do, then the only thing left for you to do is figure out how to make the one or ones you have chosen work.

No doubt there would be a lot work to do to do a plan like this. You would need to figure out how to put it all together, do all the calculations, do a lot of what if’s, etc.. And I’m sure one of the biggest things would be, would you actually take the time to do something like this or even have the time to do it? You could pay someone to do it but that would probably cost you a lot. Plus if you did that, most likely it would require a lot of back and forth work to get it just like you wanted it which would be even more expensive. But even then, would you spend the money to do it?

There is a better way. If you would like to develop a nice plan like this for yourself and give yourself a good shot at making your life better, then find a planning software that does it all for you.

One place and probably the only place I’ve found is http://StrategicBusinessSolutionsLLC.com.

The Three Main Elements Of Business Planning

Every day, millions of businesses spring up, both online and offline. These businesses run the gamut of categories, from spas to sneaker stores, accounting firms and accessory websites. Business planning is the first step in creating a secure future for your company.

Creating a Plan For Your Business

Writing a plan is the first stage of business planning. As the name suggests, a business plan is a roadmap for the direction of your company. While many owners fail to write such a plan, it is an essential step in the growth of your company. It helps you to forecast and problems that may develop in the course of business. Think of it as a contingency plan. If you are planning to apply for commercial real estate or bank loans, you will need to demonstrate proper planning for your business.

A business plan contains several main elements. First, it lays out the mission and the goal of the business. The plan will spell out whether your company is in business to serve a greater good or simply to fulfill an unmet need. Determine whether your business will serve other businesses or supply products to consumers. These are all important elements that should be included.

It does not have to be long or overly complicated. It simply has to have the elements required to put your goals into action. Developing a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) will help you to identify problems before they start. Craft your own or hire a business writer to create a dynamic plan that will guide your operations. An effective plan is one of the most important elements over overall business forecasting.

Creating a Marketing Plan

Similar to a business plan, the marketing plan spells out how you will market to new customers and retain current ones. The marketing plan should identify your target customers and develop a strategy to reach them effectively. Your marketing plan usually includes market research that gives you a profile of the ideal customer. As with your other plan, it is important to identify any strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that may affect your company’s operations.

Your marketing efforts do not have to be expensive. In many cases, companies that don’t have marketing plans spend more than is necessary to reach their customers. With a plan that will spell out the ways you will market your company, you will save money and energy on your business marketing efforts. Creating an effective marketing plan is one of the most crucial elements of planning for your business.

Succession Planning

Unless you plan to run your business for your entire life, you will need a plan of succession. If you are the only person who can run and operate your company, it is doomed to fail when you can no longer run it. Create a plan that will spell out what steps will be taken to either sell your company or hand it over to another manager. Develop a system that allows your business to be run without you. An operations manual that details the key components of running your company is the first step in succession planning. Consult an attorney about the legal aspects of either selling or transferring ownership of your company.

Planning is an important element of any successful company. By adequately planning for the direction of your business, you will enjoy business profit and success.

Writing Your Business Plan (Traditional or Online Business)

How To Write A Business Plan

In my previous article, I talked about how you can plan your business startup. I defined a business plan as a written description of the future of your business. This is a document that indicates what you intend to do and how you intend to do it. I further explained that if all you have is a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you have written a plan, or at least the beginning of a plan. I also said that a business plan consists of a narrative and several financial worksheets.

I mentioned that the ‘writing of a business plan’ as one of the pivotal steps involved in setting up a successful business. By now you should understand the need for writing a business plan. Writing a business plan, for a traditional brick and mortar business, will probably take a lot of time. It may take up to 100 hours or even more. For obvious reasons, a new business needs to carry out a lot of research before a business plan can even be developed.

For an online business, a detailed and in depth business plan is usually not necessary unless you are trying to combine your online business with a traditional business. For most online business startups, the detail involved with planning a traditional business is not required. However, it would still be beneficial to you if most of the topics were still covered, even if only briefly. Having a written plan in front of you will help you to focus on important aspects of the business.

You may not have thought much about your competition or outsourcing some of your work, but things like that will impact your ability to make a profit. And you will find this especially so in the beginning phases of your business. Even you are just opening a lemonade stand in the front yard, you will still need to know what Susie is selling her lemonade for on the next street over!

So, although a detailed business plan may not be required for an online business, I am going to include it here so you can at least look at and consider each section and determine yourself if it applies to your business.

Here I shall be discussing the basic steps involved in writing a business plan:

1. Executive Summary: The first step involved in writing a business plan is the executive summary. Here, include everything that you would cover in a five minute interview.

Explain the fundamentals of the proposed business: What will your product be? Who will your customers be? Who are the owners? What do you think the future holds for your business and your industry?

Make it enthusiastic, professional, complete, and concise.

If you are applying for a loan, state clearly how much you need and be precise in how you are going to use it. Also include detail about how the money will make your business more profitable, thereby ensuring repayment of the loan.

2. Business Description: After the executive summary, you need to write a short description of the business you are going into. You need to give a general description of the industry your business belongs to. You will write about your company’s mission statement, goals and objectives, business philosophy, as well as its legal form of ownership (sole proprietor, corporation, LLC, etc.).

Describe your most important company strengths and core competencies. What factors will make the company succeed? What do you think your major competitive strengths will be? What background, experience, skills, and strengths do you personally bring to this new venture?

3. Marketing Analysis/Strategy: The next thing to write (after the general description) should be your marketing strategy. For new or existing businesses, market analysis is an important basis for the marketing plan and will help justify the sales forecast. Existing businesses will rely heavily on past performance as an indicator of the future. New businesses have a greater challenge – they will rely more on market research using libraries, trade associations, government statistics, surveys, competitor observations, etc. In all cases, make sure your market analysis is relevant to establishing the viability of your new business and the reasonableness of the sales forecast.

4. Location: Writing down the location of your business is very important. Locations with greater customer traffic usually cost more to buy or rent, but they require less spending for advertising to attract customers. This is especially true of retail businesses where traffic count and accessibility are critical.

If an online business, you need to go into detail how you will attract customers to your website. General statements like “I will use Face Book ads and email marketing” will contribute almost nothing to helping your cause unless you have detailed statistical analysis of tests you have conducted or of another similar business you have been associated with. If you do not have any data upon which you reference your estimates, it could show lack of proper thought to the remainder of your business plan.

5. Competitive Analysis: Business by nature is competitive, and few businesses are completely new. If there are no competitors, be careful; there may be no market for your products. Expand your concept of competition. If you plan to open the first roller skating rink in town, your competition will include movie theaters, malls, bowling alleys, etc.

6. Management and Operations: Because management problems are the leading cause of business failures, it is important to discuss management qualifications and structure. Resumes of the Principals should be included in supporting data. If your business will have few employees and rely heavily on outside professionals, list these key people and their qualifications. If you are seeking financing, include personal financial statements for all of the principals in the supporting data section.

7. Personnel: The success of any company depends on their ability to recruit, train and retain quality employees. The amount of emphasis in your plan for this section will depend on the number and type of employees required.

8. Projected Financial Statements: These statements are usually helpful, but not necessary. You will develop and describe your strategies for the business throughout your Business Plan. In the financial section, you will need to estimate the financial impact of those strategies by developing projected Income Statements, Balance Sheets, and Cash Flow Statements.

It is usually recommended that these projected statements be on a monthly basis for at least the first twelve months or until the business is projected to be profitable and stable. Activity displayed beyond the monthly detail may be in summary form (such as quarterly or annually). The forecast period for most business plans is two to four years.

9. Summary Section: This section is where you will be able to attach or explain any detail not applicable to the previous sections. This section should be used to provide the financial statements of the Principle’s involved in the business and any other data you think an investor would be interested in seeing.

The main thing to remember in this section is not to provide new data, but to explain in detail data that has already been provided and to provide the support for that data.

When you sit down to compile all of the elements of your business plan, make sure you have each section able to stand on its own merits. This means you should not reference other sections sending the reader (your potential investor) back and forth between sections.

Do not try to write your business plan in one sitting. As I mentioned in the beginning, for a traditional brick and mortar business, it could take in excess of 100 hours to compile all of the information needed into a comprehensive but yet understandable document. For online businesses, probably not that long. But your final product should be well thought out, well documented and easily understandable.

Writing an Effective Business Plan For Your Small Business

Plans are Useless; Planning is Indispensable

“Plans are useless; planning is indispensable,” according to Dwight D. Eisenhower, then Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during WWII. Now, you may be in total agreement with the first part of that statement, but you are really not convinced of the truth of the second part.

At this point, you may be tempted to skip writing a business plan altogether, viewing it as an unnecessary exercise in jumping-through-the-hoops, suggested by some old business professor who probably never held down a “real” job anyway. Maybe it’s okay as an assignment for an MBA class, but it would be just too confining and irrelevant for today’s fast-paced business environment. Anyway, you’re ready! You’ve thought about this business venture for a long time and talked it over with friends and everybody agrees it’s a great idea. Best to strike while the iron is hot!

Press for Success

Far be it from me to dampen your enthusiasm, but you should give yourself every opportunity for success. That’s what the planning part of the process of creating your business plan will do. By the time you have pressed your way through it, you will not merely have some neatly arranged document to keep on file, you will have a working tool that addresses the essential factors that influence your future.

Besides, your friends may be 100% behind you in your new venture, but, in case you are hoping to involve others who have actual money to invest, you may need to be able to make a convincing case. Wouldn’t it be nice to have anticipated possible questions and be ready with plausible answers? If you are risking your own money, that is perhaps even a stronger reason to do some indispensable planning.

Easy Writer

If you are one who is intimidated by the blank page, never fear! There are several good software packages that will guide you through the process, such as Business Plan Pro Complete from PaloAltoSoftware. Business Plan Pro Complete walks you through the entire planning process and generates a complete, professional and ready to distribute plan with a proven formula for success. The planning wizard makes it a snap to get started since you simply answer yes or no questions to create your custom business plan framework. Bplans.com offers free business plan samples and how-to articles as well as a wealth of other information. It is definitely worth taking the time to checkout. Microsoft Office Online Templates also has a variety of free templates to use with their products. The wizard indicates the information you need and you fill it in as you go.

You may find that the easiest part is the actual writing of the plan. The real work comes in the data-gathering, which may take you a hundred hours or more, depending on what you already know or have researched. If your new venture is in an area where you’ve been working, you may already know about your customers, your suppliers, your marketing plan, your organizational structure, your financial and cash flow needs, equipment, inventory, and so on. If you know all of these except for Marketing, say, then this is where you will need to invest some time and effort. You can find a wealth of information by utilizing the traditional data sources such as chambers of commerce, major cities’ websites, trade associations, the US Census Bureau, trade journals, magazine and online articles and advertising, etc. Performing keyword searches on Google, or Ask will bring up websites to check out. Following are some places to start:

  • James J. Hill Reference Library (jjhill.org): One of the nation’s premier business libraries to bring you FREE and affordably priced tools and resources you can use to create a better business plan based on relevant and credible data.
  • U.S. Census Bureau (census.gov): A source for a variety of useful statistics, especially the Economic Census that comes out every 5 years.
  • American Demographics (adage.com/americandemographics): Just as the title suggests, numerous free reports about consumer demographics in the U.S. nationally and by statistical area.
  • Internet Public Library – The Census Data and Demographics (ipl.org)/: An especially useful site that has links to information about countries other than the U.S.
  • Corporate Information (corporateinformation.com): Features information summaries on over 350,000 companies in the U.S. and abroad for competitive analysis.

You can find a variety of companies online to help you with your market research. For example: Sundale Research’s (sundaleresearch.com) primary goal is to provide new and mature businesses with objective, accurate industry data and market analysis on a wide range of topics. Their market research is intended to save you time and money while keeping up with industry trends.

But your idea may be so new that you may also need to talk to potential customers, host some focus groups, talk to an ad agency, or maybe even make a prototype and float it past some people. Be prepared to spend the time. Remember, it’s not about the Plan but the Planning.

Build It on Paper First

Whether you decide to use business plan writing software or to just follow this guide and create your plan with your word processor, here are the sections of a good plan and the questions that need to be addressed:

  • Cover Page – Show the name of the company, your name, and the date.
  • Introduction – What is the name and address of the business? Who are the principals, their titles, and their addresses? What is the nature or purpose of the business? What is your launch date? How much start-up and/or operating capital is needed?
  • Executive Summary – One to three pages that summarize all the information to follow; come back and write this last.
  • Industry Analysis – How does your product or service compare with what is currently on the market? What is the trend in the overall industry? What have been the total sales in this industry over the previous 3 to 5 years? What new products or technologies have had the biggest impact on this industry recently? What is the future outlook for these and what trends are emerging? Who are the competitors, where are they located, and how are they doing? What advantage do you offer over them? Who is buying this product or service now? Describe the typical customer for this product or service. Are there emerging markets or market segments? Where does this product or service currently perform best? Possible Data Sources: trade associations; trade journals; attorneys & accountants dealing with the industry; industry salespeople; state business websites; focus groups.
  • Description – What product(s) or service(s) are you offering specifically? Are any patents, copyrights, or trademarks needed? Have they been acquired/filed? What is the size of your business? Where will it be located? Will this require purchasing or building a facility? Will this require leasing a facility? At what cost? Has a lease been negotiated? What personnel will you need? Where will you find suitable employees? What equipment do you need? Will it be purchased or leased? What are the qualifications of your principals? How do their backgrounds promote the success of this venture? Why do they think this will be a successful venture? Possible Data Sources: local Chamber of Commerce; community colleges & local universities; local employee leasing company; real estate agents; US Patent & Trademark Office; US Copyright Office.
  • Production Operation – If a product must be manufactured, what is the process? Will the work be done on-site or subcontracted? Who are the subcontractor(s)? If on-site, what space, equipment, machinery, production employees are needed? What suppliers are needed? Who are they? How will quality be assured? What is the anticipated production output? What established credit lines do you have? Possible Data Sources: local Chamber of Commerce; yellow pages; trade associations.
  • Service Operation – If a service is offered, describe it. Will the work be done by company personnel or subcontracted? Who are the subcontractor(s)? If on-site or in cyberspace, what employee qualifications, equipment, and technologies are needed? How will quality be assured? What performance levels are anticipated per employee? Possible Data Sources: local Chamber of Commerce; yellow pages; trade associations.
  • Marketing – How is the product or service priced? How will it be distributed? How will it be promoted? Will it be promoted by the venture or an outside agency? What agency? How have you determined what amount to set aside for marketing? How have you determined product or service forecasts? Possible Data Sources: on-line searches; Amazon; local outlets; trade journals; industry attorneys & accountants; salespeople.
  • Organization
  • How is the business structured? Who are the principals and the principal shareholders? What authority does each principal have in the venture? What are management’s qualifications? What is the job description for each position? What does the organizational chart look like? Possible Data Sources: on-line templates for job descriptions & organizational chart.
  • Risk Assessment – What weaknesses are inherent in this venture? What vulnerabilities face this type of venture? What impact will these have? What new technologies may affect this venture over the next 1 to 3 years? What contingency plans are in place? What level of liability insurance is required? What does it cost? Who is the carrier? Possible Data Sources: trade associations; trade journals; Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE); industry salespeople; customers; focus groups.
  • Financial Plan – What is the anticipated income? What are the cash flow projections? What is the anticipated budget over the next 3 years? What is the break even point? When is it anticipated to be met? What funding is needed and where will it come from? What funding is currently available? What collateral is available? What is the net worth of the principals, if applicable? Possible Data Sources: accountant; accounting software; Small Business Administration; Small Business Development Center; SCORE; banks; venture capitalists.
  • Appendix – Resumes of principals/management; letters of recommendation from current business associates/customers/suppliers; marketing research data; demographic data; leases or contracts in place or as promised; business licenses; price lists from suppliers; trade or industry articles or data; floor plans; information on subcontractors; liability insurance policies.

Impress for Success – Now you have to admit, this is going to make an impressive package! Put it in a binder and you have built something to be proud of – the first of your many business accomplishments. Your potential investors will appreciate the depth of your analysis, but this tool will prove helpful in describing your venture to your employees, customers, and suppliers, as well. After you have been up and running for a few months, you will find that the planning that you have done will sensitize your inner “business compass” and allow you to flexibly adjust to contingencies. And that is indispensable!

In Summary

Planning out your business on paper first gives you long-term benefits with potential investors, employees, vendors, and suppliers. The business plan becomes your roadmap to success, with pertinent data that shapes the course of your business start-up and lets you adjust your journey as contingencies arise. Business planning templates are readily available and data sources abound at your fingertips. You will achieve a solid understanding of your business as you work through each section of your plan.

IMPress Action Checklist:

Below is a list of the steps that will help you put together your business plan. Check off each step as you complete it to keep track of your progress.

  1. Purchase business plan software or download a template
  2. Read over the business plan sections to decide what data you have, what data you need
  3. Gather data via the internet, phone interviews, print material
  4. Fill in the plan’s sections
  5. Write the Executive Summary
  6. Print and Bind Your Plan