Writing your first business plan is a major step in putting your small business on the map. The point of your business plan is to articulate the concepts that inspired you to start your business as well as evaluate potential hurdles like competition and funding issues. Whether you are seeking start-up capital or just want a solid roadmap to guide you through the early years of your business, a workable small business plan will help you work toward your goals.
Answer Potential Investors' Questions
Your business plan should include several sections potential investors will expect to see regardless of the type of business. It should have an executive summary, a description of your business, and a discussion of how you plan to conduct and grow your business in the future. Investors want to see that you have a unique service or product and that you have considered how to bring it to market, as well as the strategies you'll use to get there.
Your business plan should also contain details on the climate for your business. Potential investors will be asking how your company is different from others and why clients or consumers will be interested in it versus your competitors — so be prepared for these questions. If your company is similar to existing businesses, explain what will differentiate your start-up. If you provide the same product or service as others, what will you do differently in terms of customer experience, quality or speed?
Use Numbers to Prove Your Points
Hard data that supports your business's ability to succeed is a great way to appeal to investors. For example, if you have run your business on a small scale, include your sales figures and information about your customer demographics. You may be able to access public data showing the size of your target demographic on a state or national scale. You should also consider how changing economic conditions could affect your business down the line — investors will want to see that you are thinking ahead. For example, if your business caters to homeowners, discuss how it will weather the housing market's ups and downs.
Presenting Your Business Plan
You have a number of tools available to help you create an eye-catching business plan. You can find reasonably priced software programs that take you through the process step by step and have easy-to-customize templates. You can also use online services to find experienced business plan writers; while their services will be more costly than doing it yourself, the quality of the finished plan may be worth it. Alternatively, you can hire a proofreading service to make sure your business plan is polished. Organizations like the Small Business Administration offer online tutorials to help you craft a plan that covers important topics and has aesthetic appeal. Just as importantly, your plan needs to read well and look great — consider using a printing service to print and bind the finished product.
Whether your business offers a product or a service, a business plan is an important tool for securing start-up funding as well as staying on track during the sometimes unsteady early years. By covering crucial topics like market viability, competition and economic outlook, you can use your small business plan to demonstrate your readiness to take your company to the next level.