A business plan is a tool that will help you get to your entrepreneurial destination within the timeframe you set or even at a faster pace. It provides you with a map and directions on how to get there. Not everyone may be able to read a map, as much as not many may find a business plan useful. Maybe not in all circumstances, but in major crossroads of your entrepreneurial journey, it is advantageous to have something that you can refer to that can help you stay focused on your goals.
Whether you are opening a new business, launching a new product or service, expanding or growing your venture, bringing in more investors or coming up with a new campaign, a business plan will help you put form and shape to your ideas and plot out the details. It will also help your stakeholders visualise what you have in mind and bring them on board on your journey.
There are templates available online, and you can choose one that is most suitable for your organisation. Keep your plan short and direct to the point, but cover all the bases. Take into consideration the following factors that you may need when you draft your business plan.
Gather data and verify them
“Knowledge is power,” as they say, and every bit of information about your industry and other key players in your field may be useful to your plan. You have to know everything about your target market – what clicks and what ticks them. Research statistics, do a survey, conduct focused group discussions or interviews, visit sites or read materials about your prospective customers and competitors. Check the industry pricing, the sources of materials you need, and the people known in your business arena. While you’re into it, make sure to verify all the facts you gathered as they may change from time to time.
Analyse your current situation
Armed with the data you gathered, match them with your current situation and evaluate your position in the market. Conduct a SWOT analysis to review your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, then address the things you need to do to enable your business to operate towards the direction you want it to take.
The main ingredient in a business plan is your objectives. You create a plan because you want to achieve something. However, be SMART in creating your goals. They have to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. When you do your regular monitoring and evaluation, whether it’s monthly or quarterly or annually, you will have to refer to your objectives to see where you are in your journey towards your targets. It would be better to break down your timeline into monthly goals so you can keep track of your progress easily.
Once you have defined your objectives, strategise how you will be able to attain them. Outline the steps on how you can market your business and appeal to your target customers. When it comes to mapping out your business journey, find the fastest way possible to get from point A to point B and the kind of vehicle you need to take to arrive there.
Make detailed action plans
With your objectives as your compass and your strategies as your map, you can fill in the gaps with specific action plans, complete with a timeline and comprehensive information. Put alternatives and contingency plans in scenarios where your plan may not work out as expected. Include point persons from your team and people who can help you carry out your action points.
Assign figures and costs
To complete your business plan, it should have a budget and projections, which will help you keep track of your expenses and sales. The financial aspect is significant in any business because it allows you to check if your investment is growing, remaining the same or going the opposite way. Make your budget thorough so that you can approximate how much you need to shell out for you to realise your goals.
When you have finished writing your business plan, put it somewhere visible and accessible. Refer to it in your regular huddles. Share your plan with your team or, better yet, draft the plan with them. Get everyone on board, including your family members and friends. Adjust items if necessary.
If you are not confident with your business plan, consult with a mentor or colleague. Listen to the stories of other entrepreneurs, such as those in EO, and attend learning events to get more pointers on how to make your plan work. Lastly, a plan will only be as effective as the actual output you do. Let not your plans go to waste. As you have converted your ideas into words, bring life to it through your actions.