If you've never written a business plan before, the idea alone can be overwhelming.
It doesn't have to be the nightmare of your imagination.
Traditionally, a business plan is used to secure funding from a lender or a potential investment partner. It serves as something akin to your business's resume, outlining the purpose and scope of your business, identifying the goals, marketing and management, and establishing a basic balance sheet.
Now, even if you aren't going to seek additional funding, even if you're going to grow your business by yourself from your office at home, you'd be wise to put together a business plan. Simply going through the process has value. It'll help you develop a clearly defined vision of what you intend to do with your business and how you intend to do it.
These are some of the questions you should already have asked and answered before you sit down to write your business plan:
== What "want" does your business fill, and what service or product will you be providing to fill that want?
== Who will be your potential customer (this should be an established, niche market with die-hard buyers).
== Why will people purchase from you as opposed to the business down the street (in other words ... what's your Unique Selling Position)?
== How do you intend to reach your customers? A storefront? An ad in the phone book? Direct mail? An Internet campaign? Selling door-to-door? A combination of these?
== Will you need additional funding and if so, how much will you need and how do you intend to secure it?
Okay, so let's take a look at what you'll want to include in your business plan.
Most business plans are structured to examine four primary areas:
1. Executive Summary - a decryption of the business
2. How you intend to market the business
3. How the business finances will be arranged and handled
4. How the business will be managed
Lets take a further look at these.
Executive Summary: what the business will do, its Unique Selling Position, the business goals, its ownership and legal structure, your skills and knowledge and how they will benefit the business.
Marketing The Business: describe your product or service, identify your market niche, how big it is, and how you plan to reach it. Define your customer, identify your competition, detail your pricing plan, outline how you intend to attract and convert customers.
Financing The Business: estimate your start-up costs, project your monthly operating budget for the first year, outline your ROI (return on investment) and cash flow for the first year, project your income and expense balance sheet for the first two years, explain how you're going to compensate yourself, establish who will maintain the accounting records and how they'll be maintained, and if you're in need of funding, explain how much you need and how it'll be used by the business.
Managing The Business: how will the business be managed day-to-day, what the hiring and personnel procedures will be, how the products or services will be developed and how they'll get into the hands of your customers. You'll also need to account for equipment the business will need, and how insurance, rental agreements, etc. will be handled.