Business Plan Basics
I have a business and offer writing services so, on occasion, I have been asked to write business plans. Those making such requests are generally very eager, convinced of their no-fail ideas, and are being held back only by a lack of funding. Their bank accounts are typically not filled with the cash needed to support their soon-to-be highly profitable, cash-producing enterprises so they go to where they think the money is for them: the bank. Bankers do want to make loans but they also want to avoid loan defaults, so the would-be lenders ask for a business plan.
Apparently, the business-plan request surprises the otherwise hopeful entrepreneurs who then knock on my door. Although I am a writer and can create a financial statement, I am not an inventor, marketing researcher, mind-reader, or a magician. I quickly advise these clients to learn just a bit about business perhaps through business start-up classes offered through the community college or chamber of commerce. Such a process, which would take perhaps a month or two, would certainly delay the start of the business and result in not capturing the sure, hot market that is available today. So, again, the clients look to me, though, honestly, I have never requested or received a business loan.
I have learned, over the years, that it is best to give the start-up clients a list of items they need to give me in order to prepare a business plan. To date, I have never actually prepared said business plans (promises of giving me the information in a few days have never been fulfilled) but it has saved me quite a bit of time that I would have otherwise spent trying to convince clients that they are unprepared.
I developed the list based on Small Business for Dummies (by Eric Tyson and Jim Schell), which is available through amazon.com or the public library. My list is not comprehensive but is enough to get them started...
- Mission statement (business purpose, values, and/or motto)
- Summary (brief description)
- Legal/tax structure (a sole proprietorship, partnership, C Corporation, S Corporation, or Limited Liability Corporation-LLC)
- Niche (how you will differentiate your company from the competition)
- education, experience, and accomplishments
- Industry (overview, market conditions, industry leaders, and opportunities)
- Potential customers (who they are and why they will choose your product or service)
- Benefits of the product or service
- Geography and distribution (where your customers are and how you will deliver products or services to them)
- Marketing (how you will reach your target audience, how you will retain customers, and how you will build referrals)
- Pricing (pricing structure, how your prices compare with competitors' prices)
- Payment terms (how will customers pay you and if/how you will extend credit)
- Employees (positions needed, job descriptions and skill sets, human resources policies, and compensation plans)
- Vendors (products or services you will need and vendors you will use)
Financial Management Plan
- Budget / profit and loss statement (expected income less expected expenses)
- Balance sheet projections (assets such as equipment and liabilities such as loans)
- Cash-flow projections (timing of income and expenses to determine if you will have cash in your account to cover your bank loan, payroll, etc.)
...or scare them away.