Do you need a business plan? If you’re starting a business, the answer is, unequivocally, yes.
What is a business plan? A business plan is a framework of strategies and initiatives to start a business. A successfully executed business plan ends in the creation of a business entity and helps with managing operations and securing funding. Entrepreneurs with ideas they want to bring to fruition commonly use business plans to structure and streamline their efforts into tangible and realistic outcomes.
A business plan generally includes three sections:
Organization: This is where you state your company’s vision and values. These statements constitute the foundation of your strategic plan. You should include market research information, funding and growth potential, resources and other details to ensure your dream will become a viable business.
Financial: Without money or a plan for getting funding, it’s difficult to start and grow a business. Sure, there are people who start successful businesses in their garages with a box of spare parts or max out their credit cards to pay expenses. But your business plan should involve a more sustainable financial approach. You need to sweat such details as assets, expenses, income, insurance and liabilities — preferably with the help of a business banker or financial or tax professional.
Marketing and sales: You must establish your brand, forecast sales and make market projections. This part of your business plan should be realistic and include the specific steps you’ll take to build your customer base and meet sales goals.
What is a business plan used for? A business plan serves several purposes. First, it’s a roadmap to direct your activities. Second, it’s a proposal for how you’ll deliver goods or services and serve your market. Third, it’s a logically laid out, thoroughly researched document that proves to potential funding sources you have a viable business model and will have the means to pay back loans and other funding sources.
How often should you update your business plan? A business plan is a living document. Every time there’s a significant change in your business model, market, goals or other aspect of your business, take a few minutes to update your business plan. At a minimum, review your plan once a year — a New Year’s resolution worth making and keeping.
Where can you get help writing a business plan?
The Small Business Development Center in Grand Junction offers free and low-cost assistance.
The next Leading Edge business planning and management course is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays Aug. 31 to Nov. 16 at the center. The course will offer a combination of classroom instruction, interactive exercises and conservations with experts to teach participants how to start and grow businesses.
The Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Mesa County Workforce Center and Mesa County Libraries also offer resources.
The U.S. Small Business Administration provides business plan templates on its website at www.sba.gov along with many other resources for business owners. The templates are free. Simply choose one — or several — and modify the contents to meet your needs.
Your business banker constitutes another source of useful pointers for what should be included and excluded from your business plan. Your banker is one of the main audiences for your plan since they’ll likely also be one of your main sources of funds.