Serial entrepreneurs can’t resist the urge to create, create, create – especially when it comes to a new venture. There’s something exhilarating about starting a new journey in business, something that gets the creative juices flowing.
Of course, any new venture, no matter how great the idea, can come crashing down in a hurry if it isn’t preceded by a sound business plan.
Creating a business plan can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. It doesn’t have to be complicated, though. Some of the most effective business plans could be explained on a few pages.
Regardless of how in-depth you want to go, creating a business plan foundation is easier than you think. Here are simple steps to drafting a document that will lay the groundwork for your new venture.
Research First, Second, and Third
Before you start writing, you’ll need to research. A lot.
You should spend over twice the time researching as you do actually writing the document. You’ll want to know everything about your product or service, your target market, your ideal customer, your competition, the regulatory environment (if applicable), and broader trends that may impact your business over the first few years.
You want to learn as much as you can. That knowledge will pay off down the road as you actually write your plan and run your business.
Identify Your Plan’s Purpose
Once you’ve researched everything, you’ll have a better idea of what you want to accomplish with your business plan.
Are you trying to attract outside investors? Are you planning on self-funding or crowd-funding? Are you applying for a loan? Figure out what your plan needs to say to these different audiences and you’ll be able to tailor your plan for that particular purpose – and have a better chance of succeeding.
Choose the Right Outline
There’s no magic formula for what a business plan should look like, but most business plans have a few elements in common.
The Small Business Administration gives entrepreneurs a pretty good outline of what should be in a business plan:
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Market analysis
- Organization and management
- Service or product
- Marketing and sales
- Funding request (next 3-5 years)
- Financial projections
That’s a solid outline, and one you can easily adapt for whatever purpose. You may want to add or take away certain elements, but following the above guidelines will lead you down the right path.
Include a Marketing Strategy
Per the outline above, your plan should have a marketing strategy included.
You need to know how you’ll convince other people to give you their money. That’s what marketing is all about. In this section, you’ll outline everything from the specific audiences and markets you’re targeting to competitive advantages, the channels you’ll use, content you’ll produce, how you’ll enter new markets or territories, your plan for capturing market share, how you’ll introduce new products/services, your pricing strategy, etc.
The plans that have a firm foundation in marketing tend to do better because they convince investors – and the owners themselves – that this business has a plan for influencing others to give the business money.
Show Your Personality and Passion
Business plans don’t need to be stuffy and dry, full of jargon and legalese, devoid of all personality. It’s best if they show not just your expertise for what you’re doing, but your passion as well. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What motivates you to start this company?
An entrepreneur who is sincerely driven to make a business work because he or she has a vision and purpose is someone who is appealing to investors, partners, and clients alike.
Communicate your passion and show them who you are, so that you stand out from all the other business plan-carrying entrepreneurs out there.
Creating a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. If done correctly, it will lay a firm foundation for your venture as you move forward.
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