Get Smart Before You Start A New Business – Part 03 – The Planning Stage

Now that you have conducted comprehensive research as indicated in (Part 02) of this mini series, you are more prepared to begin to assemble your thoughts and data into a business plan format. Before doing that, you need to consider a few things:

WHAT A BUSINESS PLAN IS

A written business plan is a road map from where you are now to where you want to be one, two, five and ten years from now with your business. To write a good plan you must have vision for your business now and well into the future. Why? You may think you can start your business without a formal written plan, and you can, but you will have far more unanticipated problems, probably make more costly mistakes and the probability of failure is far higher. What if I put you in a rowboat without oars, no map, no compass, and no sextant and pushed you away from shore. Then I told you to go to a specific dock (called success) in France, what do you think are the chances of you floating across the ocean and accidentally getting there are? You wouldn’t get there would you? You need the oars, the map, the compass and the sextant to navigate! Even with these tools it would be difficult to navigate across the ocean even if you had experience. The same holds true for a business plan. The plan is the oars, map, compass and sextant for your business and is absolutely critical for you to go from where you are now, to that specific dock called success. Your plan will chart your course and the better the plan, the easier the trip.

THE REASONS FOR WRITING A PLAN

There are two primary reasons for writing a business plan: For your own purposes or to raise investment capital. Writing a plan for investment capital is comprehensive and requires a high degree of business skill across a spectrum of disciplines (management, marketing, production, advertising, sales, etc) including accounting for pro forma projections, which meet investor expectations. If you are writing a plan for your own purposes, the plan should be comprehensive but does not need to be as formal as the other. Which plan you write will determine its depth and scope. In either case, you want a plan that reflects the truth and best analysis of the risks and opportunities associated with your venture. Boil all the junk down and the primary purpose for having a business plan is to control chaos. It forces you to look into the future and anticipate problems in advance, ways to overcome obstacles and to think critically about your business before making a financial commitment. It doesn’t cost money to think or plan or write and having a business plan is in your best interest (.)

UNDERSTANDING BUSINESS LIFE CYCLE:

A business is just like a human being. Humans evolve from when a baby is conceived to newborn, infant, childhood, teenage, adult and mature. The same with a business: your idea is the “conception” of the business and your business planning process is the gestation period. When your business begins operations, it is a new born baby requiring nurturing and must be fed with work and cash flow. As the business grows it will go through stages very similar to a human, childhood to teen to young adult and finally maturity. During each stage of the business, the business will have different demands and require different management techniques. As you consider your business plan, keep this in mind and plan for it. Your cash flow needs at the beginning of a business will be much different than as a young adult. Your staff will be bigger, etc.

SOURCES FOR BUSINESS PLANNING ASSISTANCE

There are a TON of business plan outlines on the net you can get for free. The SBA has decent outlines you can download for free although most business plan outlines you find will be written for perfect businesses with an operating history. Few outlines cover start up operations. In any case, there is a lot of free information available from the SBA and from SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives). Between these two organizations, which you can access online and offline, you will find resources to meet most planning needs. You can also contact you local chamber of commerce, state chamber of commerce, local universities, and Small Business Development Corporations (SBDC’s) in your area. You also want to call your Secretary of State (SOS) to get information on licensing and information packages related to your business. The SOS is your key portal for local, state and federal compliance information. We do offer a super comprehensive ebook that covers all forms of business plans including startups, home based business and much more. I mention it because you should be aware that it exists.

OTHER PLANNING ISSUES

WEBSITES: Would a website be helpful? Almost every business can benefit from having a website. There are many website companies online that offer web site services for as low as $150.00 annually (or less) and include templates, which are designed so that even a novice can have a website and they are designed like a fancy word processor. These sites are easy to learn and you can have a professional looking website setup in a manner of a few hours. The benefit of having a website is that it can offset the cost of creating literature. You can showcase your products and services online and have your website address on your business cards. Every business (and most people) has Internet access and it often makes more sense to invest your time and money into a website instead of wasting money on hard-copy literature. Websites are flexible and you can change the content when you want, upgrading your selling message, promotional offers, etc. This will save you a TON of money and free you from the cost of producing paper literature. My opinion is that every business should have a website. Here’s another benefit: when you set up a website, you have a slice of real estate on the information super highway, you have a presence, your business comes alive and you avoid all the costs associated with a bricks and sticks operation. A website can also serve as a vehicle to point investors to for their review and the media for publicity. Many home based businesses are run well using a website. Having a website factored into your business plan is an important consideration.

Also consider what kind of technology you will need to support your business, especially your computer, software (for word-processing, desktop publishing, accounting, database management, etc). Most often is makes sense to get an integrated software program that handles all these functions so you can import and export data between the functions of the software.

I think I have given you a lot of information to think about in this article and if you are just starting to explore a new venture, you have a lot of work to do! You may want to keep your eyes on my articles because this is a continuing mini series that will cover a lot of ground in the coming days.

To your success!

Copyright © 2006 James W. Hart, IV