by Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation | Featured Contributor
It’s easy to get scattered whenever you start writing up a business plan outline. Maybe this is your first crack at it and you aren’t sure which way to begin so you start writing about your business and everything you have to offer. If you’re doing just that so far, then that’s good! Keep that part up! Not a whole lot of people will tell a business plan writer that either, to babble on and on about what their business is and does and aspires to do. I recommend starting off discussing what you do know, rather than struggle your way through the seven steps that is the business plan process trying to put together an answer even if you aren’t sure of it.
The expectation here is that your business from the get-go should be neat and ordered, even in the earliest stages of planning, but going by the book, exactly by the book, can leave some much needed questions unanswered.
1. What are these seven steps you’re even talking about??
Keep calm and carry on, kiddos. For absolute beginners, going through the steps to a business plan can be daunting enough in itself. Below is a basic outline of what these steps are and what they mean:
1) Executive Summary – typically this is placed at the end and is a quick summary of the plan as a whole.
2) Business Description – the history behind your business, what the product or service is and does, the development stage you’re in and much more can be found here.
3) Market Analysis – who your target audience is and what they need.
4) Implementation Strategies – how you plan on reaching said audience and the methods you’ll track your results with.
5) Web Plan – particularly important if your business operates online, where you’ll discuss development costs, marketing strategies and more for your website.
6) Management Plan – the members of your business’ team and their core responsibilities.
7) Financial Analysis – where you’ll keep tables related to your cash flow and projected profit and loss.
2) Do you know why you’re writing this?
For the business… right? Not quite. Unless you truly know the audience you’re trying to reach, the investors you hope to attract, and your business inside and out, then you might want to hold off on working on it until you do have concrete answers in place.
3) Do you know who your competition is?
Chances are really high that you aren’t the first person to have thought up this brilliant product and don’t have at least a couple of competitors to deal with in the market. Know your competition and what they’re doing, both right and wrong, but don’t make their work your complete focus. Put your focus on the strengths you have in the company instead as well as your weaknesses – and learn how to work with both.
4) Are you being realistic enough?
You can’t set a business plan around some random date next year that you decided will be the day your business makes its millions and goes public on. Be realistic in all things from your budget to the amount of time you spend on your product or service. I never discourage shooting for the stars, but in the early stages of your startup every dollar counts and overshooting early on can lead to disastrous consequences.
5) Will I be able to rewrite this plan later on?
Striving for perfection on your first draft can lead to disaster. You should be able to answer this question with “yes” because every plan, no matter how airtight it is on its trial run, will eventually need to be retouched as circumstances change for your company. This is a good thing trust me – it gives you space to breathe! And every growing business needs a touch of that no matter how established it is.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com, the leader in online filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses. MyCorporation provides start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark and copyright filing services.
With her extensive experience in the field of corporate and intellectual property law, Deborah provides insightful commentary on who should consider incorporation and trademark registration and has been involved in the formation of hundreds of thousands of businesses with MyCorporation’s customers.
Deborah is a member of the American Bar Association, servces on the Board of Regents at California Lutheran University, and is a contributing blogger with Forbes, American Express, and many more business blogs.