Oh, the dreaded business plan.
I think there is nothing more misunderstood, feared, avoided, and forgotten as a good old-fashioned basic #businessplan. Over the years, I have watched entrepreneurs struggle to create one, including myself. Half get so into the details of creating a plan that they become paralyzed, fear takes over, and they never #launch their businesses. The other half make half-hearted attempts at one then abandon it and start their #business without a clear #vision. If you've ever struggled with creating a plan, my #advice is to relax, clear your mind, and forget everything that you've learned about #businessplans—and keep reading.
One of the first things I tell clients is to #pitch me their business—it rarely goes well. A good business plan will help you develop your #businesspitch.
Another big reason I encourage clients to create a plan is that I often struggle to develop a #marketingstrategy and define a #marketingbudget because they have not taken the time to think about their #business. A good #businessplan will be a blueprint for your business.
"Over 99 percent of America's 28.7 million firms are small businesses. The vast majority (88 percent) of employer firms have fewer than 20 employees, and nearly 40 percent of all enterprises have under $100k in revenue. 20 percent of small businesses are employer businesses and 80 percent are nonemployer businesses."
Source: JPMorgan Chase Institute
Chance are you're not a Fortune 500 company. Most of you are not taking out big #bankloans or finding #angelinvestors. You probably have a handful of #employees, if you have any, and you don't have millions in inventory. You are self-financed or have asked #friendsandfamily for #loans. You are a #smallbusiness—or #startup as the kids like to say.
So your first step is to understand that all those business plan apps, programs, and books are general guides for all types and sizes of new businesses. The plans they create are often geared toward getting loans and investors. They are designed to be viewed externally. Chances are the plan you are creating is just for you. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be any less thorough, but it doesn't need to be as polished.
The primary goal of your #businessplan is to work through the kinks of your #business and think things out. So before you take a deep dive into all those exercises and spend hours filling out #worksheets take a second to understand the simple purpose of a business plan and who is going to see it.
A good business plan is a blueprint that describes your current and future #business. It details—briefly or extensively—what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. It outlines a strategic plan that states current and future #resources and abilities, indicating how you will get from here to there over a specified period.
When you are ready to create your business plan, follow the Ulster Studios 15-minute Business Plan Rule,so you don't get lost in the details. Find a free business plan app that will let you build your plan in as little as 15 minutes. It can even be a one pager. If you go over 15-minutes, no big deal. The idea is not to waste hours, or worse, days of your time. At this point, you should know enough about your business to fill out a few basic forms.
The 15-minute Business Plan Rule is simple, and it is an extension of the well-known #ParetoPrinciple or 80/20 rule—20% of your time produces 80% of your results.
The idea is to get a quick version of your business plan down on paper. My favorite 'quick' business plan builder is Business Plan Quick Builder (link below).
A good 'quick' business plan builder will let you enter a few details about your business, answer a few questions, and then spit out a decent enough looking plan to get you started. It should also cover these essential topics:
Income and Cash Flow Forecast
The reason this is the best way to create a business plan is that it will force you to define your #businessproposition, outline your #strategy, and see a glimpse of the future. Just as importantly, it will give you the confidence of having completed the first draft of your business plan—a real starting point.
So what now?
Now, put it in a drawer and forget about it. Just kidding!
Honestly, the next step is to understand that this new exciting business plan is a living and breathing document. What do I mean by that? It means you don't put it in a drawer and forget about it. You revisit this document often. You update it as your business grows and changes. Maybe every time you file your quarterly business taxes, you update it or at the very least read it. Put it on your #calendar. As they say—the best way to know where you are going is to know where you have been!
If you never get past this 'quick' version realize you are already ahead of 90% of the businesses out there. Now if you really want to step up your game use a service like #LivePlan or #enloop (links below) to take your business plan to the next level.
Remember, you can spend months planning and have the most detailed and complex #businessplan and a month after you start your business—everything changes and your business plan will seem worthless. However, that's not exactly true. Your plan got you to this pivot point. Now you need to revise your business plan based on your new reality and keep moving forward.
So keep it simple and remember—your business plan is there to guide you, and it should never be an obstacle to starting or growing your business. If you approach your business plan with the right mindset and realistic expectations—it will be an incredibly useful tool.
Managing Director | Ulster Studios
RESOURCES & LINKS
Some great articles about business plans:
Business Plan Builder (Free) in the Google Play App Store
This app is ridiculously simplistic but powerful. Sorry, it is Android only. However, a quick search of the Apple Store will help you find something similar, maybe better.
Online Business Plan Builders (Free)
Professional Business Plan Software (Free/Premium)