Planning your business
June 9, 2018
If you ever share a small business idea, everyone will tell you that you need to write a business plan. Creating a plan for a business that's still just an idea in your head can be difficult at best.
We talked before about a tool called "The Business Model Canvas Template," and that's a great place to start. If you remember, the canvas is used to get what's in your head down on a piece of paper so that you can create a business model before writing a formal business plan. Once this is done, and usually, after several revisions, you can start on the formal business plan.
Everyone's plan will look a little bit different when it's finished – there are no right or wrong answers. Your business plan is a living document. It can and will change over time. It's something you'll revisit many times over the life of your business to refine and adjust your path of growth and success.
Developing your business plan doesn't have to be a stressful experience. If you're a little apprehensive about getting started on your plan, keep these tips in mind to take the frustration out of your business planning experience.
Take your time
If you're anxious about getting your business idea off the ground, you might feel like you need to complete your business plan overnight. Working quickly can be helpful, but rushing through a business plan can leave your endeavor suffering later on. This is why we start with the canvas. It helps you to slow down and think through what you want to do.
It can take a lot of time to write your business plan correctly. Many of my clients have spent several days or even a week or two to complete theirs. Researching the competition in your target market might only take a few hours to consider if you are familiar with them, but you might get carried away spending many more hours grueling over the numbers for your financial projections. Completing this section alone could take you a few days.
One thing I have found that helps a lot is to create a schedule for completing the various sections of your business plan. By pacing yourself, it gives you time to think and clearly state your goals.
Sample Plans and Templates
Again, using the Business Model Canvas is a great start, but it can be daunting to create a workable plan that you are proud of and willing to share with others. Think about using a business plan template that represents your type of business. You can start with an idea of what a typical business plan in your industry looks like, how long it should be, and what kind of language to use. Some will apply the sample plan "boilerplate" and change the language that pertains personally to them. This isn't the preferred method, but you need to do whatever you can do and if this helps you get started, do it!
If you're not great at math, you'll find financial templates to be quite helpful. There are a variety of spreadsheets available that make it easy to figure out your business costs and profitability.
But if you use templates, don't get caught up in what your business plan "should" look like. There's no perfect business plan, and you shouldn't expect the first draft of your plan to exactly reflect your dream.
Get Help Along the Way
You might write your business plan by yourself, but you shouldn't keep it to yourself. Share your early drafts with friends and family members who are serious and care about you and your small business success. Encourage these trusted people to ask you questions that will strengthen your plan. They may come up with things you've forgotten.
If you get stuck on one portion of your business plan or just want an unbiased person to bounce things off of, don't hesitate to call your local SBDC office. Their counselors are seasoned professionals that have seen countless business plans and can guide you toward completing a working plan you'll be proud of sharing.
Jay Thompson is a Business Consultant with the CSU Bakersfield Small Business Development Center. The CSUB SBDC provides premium, one on one, no cost consulting to small business owners in Kern, Inyo and Mono Counties. For more information visit their website at http://www.csub.edu/sbdc.