How to Draft and Refine a Business Plan
The key to starting your business off on the right foot is a smart and savvy business plan, as any business-school graduate will tell you. You’ll need it to determine your immediate and short-term course of action, decide if you need investors or partners, and secure the bank loans to get started and stay afloat. But how do you go about creating this mystical document? The description of a sound business plan as one that lays out not only the steps you will take to form and grow your business, but also the cost of startup and the prospects for economic viability, at least gives you an idea of where to start. But what you really need is a list of items to include and some tips on how to go about getting the information required to write up your plan.
1. Mission statement. Start by writing a concise description of what your business will be (i.e., “I plan to repair vacuum cleaners” or “My business will offer graphic design services to web-based commercial enterprises”). You may also want to add specific goals like, “I plan to market my product/service mainly to the 18-25 demographic” or “I will take on a minimum of five new clients each month”.
2. Qualifications. Because the main point of a business plan is to attract investors, you will certainly want to detail any background information that will set them at ease when it comes to your ability to succeed. You should include applicable schooling and job experience as well as any relevant awards, recognition, etc. If you have business partners or other important staffing choices (COO, CFO, etc.) in place, you should include a brief résumé for them, as well.
3. Profile. This will be a precise accounting of the details of your business. What are you selling? What is the demographic you’re marketing to? How will you create your product or provide your service? What steps will you take to reach consumers and ensure repeat business? These details are all important to running a successful business and whether or not you think to ask the questions, you can be sure a lender will.
4. Cost/revenue analysis. You will not only need to calculate the cost of starting your business and running it (for at least a year), complete with a breakdown, but you should also project expected income during the same time period (based on a number of factors, such as what similar businesses are earning, the affluence of the area you intend to operate in, the expected frequency of targeted customers and return clientele, etc.).
5. Finesse it. Once you have all the information you need to create your business plan, you need to refine it to exclude unnecessary or redundant entries and ensure that you have been clear and concise on all points. You should also try to make it appealing to those who will peruse it by injecting some personality into the text. Give them a taste of the individual attention your customers can expect. Making it your own could mean the difference between approval and rejection.