This post should probably have been the first one I did. That notwithstanding, I still think it’s not too late to share with you what I know.
There are two general schools of thought on the relevance of a business plan. There are those who think it is relevant and worth the effort of putting one together, while the other group who think a business plan is not necessary unless you are seeking to raise funding, or get a loan from a bank.
Actually, both notions are right. Right in the sense that you as a business owner, you need a business plan to help you clarify and put things concerning your business in perpective for you. Again, if you have a business plan it becomes very easy to raise funding from VCs or get a loan from a bank.
So what should you put into a business plan (mind you, this post is about writing an outline plan, not a detailed one.)
1. Your Mission: This part of the plan should be able to explain in 8 to 35 words what your business exists for. It should provide an answer to why you’d get out of bed everyday to go attend to that business.
2. Your Goals: This section states some achievable things you want. It should have items listed in terms of dollars, numbers, hours, and percentages. This section should have the things you want to achieve with your business. Make sure you set goals that are big enough to inspire you, and at the same time it should not be too unrealistic.
3. The Problem: This section outlines the problem you have set out to solve. In some cases it may not be a problem you want to solve but an opportunity you have identified that gives you the chance to start a business. Whatever it is, you will need to explain what you are going to address in this section. This section should also be able to help you make an elevator pitch whenever necessary.
4. The Financial Plan: This section should state what your assets are and how much money you want to raise. It should then explain what you will do with the money you’re looking to raise.
5. The Marketing Plan: This is a calendar of how you intend to take your product or service to the market. It would for instance state how long you expect to do research and development, if you will do a pre-launch activity, if you will do PR activities and for how long. This section should also state the marketing channels you will use to promote your new products or services.
6. The Organisational Chart: This section shows how you intend to assign roles of running the various aspects of the business between yourself and others. Even if you intend to run your business as a sole proprietor, you will still need to show how other people will help you. Who will be in charge of marketing and sales, technology, administration etc.
7. Operations: In this section, you will need to list some operations or projects that when you embark on will take your business onto the path of success. These listed operations or projects should be written in a manner that clearly solves a problem or must take advantage of a situation.
8. The Executive Summary: Once you have been able to put down all the details of your plan, it’s time to spend about a page answering the key questions about your business: The what, the why, the for whom, the how much, the by when, and the where.
9. Revise Your Plan: You have spent time and effort to write this outline and have a fair idea of what your business is about. Along the way however, some things will definitely change. For instance your marketing plan may change because your R&D may have taken longer than expected or the opportunity you saw may have changed. Revision is important as it gives you the chance to remain nimble to changes as they occur on the market.