Mention business plan and many will fear or shun the idea. Too complicated. Too costly. Too “pie in the sky.”
Not so. In reality it can be relatively simple to develop a business plan and the results may surprise you.
A business plan — even if it’s just one page with a few financial projections — can be a valuable internal tool. It can foster alignment, set the tone for the business and even help you craft your brand messaging.
Small Business Trends Website contains interviews with members of the Young Entrepreneur Council, an invitation-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. They were asked the following question to figure out when (and why) a business plan is an asset, even if you’re not planning to raise one penny:
“What is one good reason to write a business plan even if you’re not going for a bank loan or venture capital?”
Here are a few of their responses:
“The biggest reason to write out a business plan regardless of any financing option concerns is that it can help you stay organized and remain on track. Businesses without a plan can easily get off-target, and revenues will suffer as a result. Creating a plan with expense projections, revenue forecasts, and more can help a small business remain committed to its long-term goals.” — Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
Confirm the Math
“A lot of ideas sound great on paper and even in discussions. However, simple math can make or break an idea. Before we launch any new idea, we at least create a financial model to project the Return On Investment from several realistic scenarios. You can save a lot of time and frustration thinking through the numbers, and making sure it’s possible to hit your revenue and profit goals.” — Phil Frost, Main Street ROI
“A business plan is a great tool that allows founders to articulate their vision and future plans for their company. When using any business plan format, there are standard questions that force you to think and create a long-term vision and strategy for your idea. Once these are down on paper, they can serve as a guide to allow you to track your progress and hold yourself accountable for the future.” — Aron Schoenfeld, Do It In Person LLC
Know Your Message
“Business planning is incredibly helpful for describing what you do, understanding who your competitors are, and crafting a realistic three- to five-year plan. Each of these activities is crucial if you are looking to launch or expand a venture, and learning to speak concisely about your company will always be crucial no matter what stage you’re in.” — Garrett Neiman, CollegeSpring
“Business plans are a valuable ... document that can serve as a successful benchmarking tool. Where did your business exceed expectations? In what areas did your strategy maybe fall short? While it’s fine to ‘pivot’ your company based on what you’ve seen in the market, having something in writing puts the onus on you to be honest about your company’s performance. “ — Charles Bogoian, Kenai Sports, LLC
Here’s an outline for a simple business plan:
• Rethink who your customers are;
• Revisit your goals and expectations;
• Recalculate financial information for your business;
• Revamp marketing strategies; and
• Review assessment procedures.
There are local resources for free or at low cost to help you analyze your business plan or write a new one. Here are a few:
• College of The Albemarle’s Small Business Center: 252-335-0821 or visit http://www.albemarle.cc.nc.us/small_business.php
• SBTDC-Small Business and Technology Development Center at Elizabeth City State University: 252-335-3045 or visit www.sbtdc.org
• River City Community Development Corp.: 252-331-2925 or visit www.rivercitycdc.org
• Rebecca Cross, Elizabeth City Downtown, Inc.: 252-338-4104; email@example.com