As a Certified Business Advisor, whenever I bring up the words "business plan" it inevitably evokes sighs and even groans. Most small business owners haven't done a BP unless they needed it for a course in college or they are applying for a loan. There are many reasons to create one, however - and I wanted to share a few compelling ones here:
- To clarify your strategy
- To raise capital
- To attract collaboration
First, a business plan is your road map. It is a way to convey to yourself, your partners, and your employees what you do and why you do it. As Simon Sinek tells us, the why is much more important. Often, it is difficult to articulate why you do what you do. "To make money" doesn't seem like a very PC answer. I coach my clients to start with what societal problem they are trying to solve. For example, if you own a carpet cleaning business - it is fairly straightforward - you clean carpets. But why? We can look at deeper consumer needs of hygiene/health, beautifying the home, impressing the in-laws, etc. When you identify your why in your business plan, you are creating content to be used in all of your marketing materials - from your website to your brochures to your social media pages. #timesaver You are also making sure that everyone in your organization - your employees, suppliers, and customers are on the same page with your company vision. It is all spelled out in one document so there is no question as to what products/services you provide and their differentiating factors.
Second, at some point in your business lifetime you may need to raise capital. (shocking, I know). Maybe it is for start-up costs, maybe it is for expansion, or maybe it is to position the company for sale or acquisition. If you already have a formal business plan in place, it is easy to re-configure it to be a Pitch Deck for angel investors, an Executive Summary for a potential landlord, or a captivating one-sheet for a broker. Your business plan clearly outlines why your company has value and is worth investing in. Having to do this deep dive into your company's financials and think honestly about cash flow, seasonality and sales forecasts can reveal some powerful information. If you're not a numbers person - have your accountant help you or take a class such as Profit Mastery.
Third, perhaps you need to garner some buy-in for reasons other than revenue production. Maybe you are looking for that perfect new Board member. Maybe you are looking to partner with another business on a project. You may be putting together a proposal for a large contract or you need to find the perfect wording for your bio or press release. Once you have created the content, it can be re-purposed over and over.
Okay, so you are on board with having a business plan. But where to begin? Here, Google is your friend. Do a simple search for a business plan and you will get thousands of results, many of which are ads for expensive software or high-prices consultants. Here's a trick: Go to Google Images. Search for your specific industry, i.e.: Carpet Cleaning Business Plan pdf. and Viola! you will have downloadable documents that give you a jumping off point. Do not copy them word for word! The whole idea is to set yourself apart from everyone else out there. When you have the basics components of your document down, you can use a template like the ones found on the Washington Small Business Development Centers website. YouTube is also a great resource if you are a visual learner, or you can download my presentation on the subject here.
Finally, once you have taken an initial stab at it, have a friend or trusted advisor look it over. It should be someone not intimately involved with your business so that you have fresh eyes and an unbiased perspective. The SBDC provides no-cost advising services and can do this as well. Like a website, the business plan will take some time to complete, and it will continually need tweaking or tinkering as your business evolves. Be sure to enjoy the process! Committing to the task is a great way to remind yourself why you started this business in the first place, and can renew your enthusiasm and provide insights as to areas of improvement.
If you would like a free business plan template or to set up an appointment please visit the Highline College SBDC Facebook page or call us at 206-592-4150. We would love to help!