Why You Need a Business Plan & How to Write One

A business plan is a document that covers what your business offers and to whom, what your goals are, and how you’re going to reach them.  Think of it like a road map to get your business from where you are today to where you want to be.  It’s a strategic plan.  Sometimes this is called an “internal” business plan because it’s only intended for the business owner or leadership team to reference and not for outside investors.

Unless you’re seeking financing from a traditional source like a bank, applying for grants, or seeking investors, your business plan can be simple and easy to write with no need for endless pages of income projections, competitive analysis, and other (very interesting but time consuming) statistics and research.  So feel free to throw that out the window and just put together an easy couple of pages that will help guide your business through 2009.

( Note: If you’re looking to write a business plan to secure financing or present to investors you can find free templates and help on the SCORE website at http://www.score.org/template_gallery.html )

If you’ve already got a business plan, the end of the year is a great time to review it and see where you can update or change to reflect the goals you’ve already reached or any changes in business direction.

So, what should you include in your business plan?  Here’s an outline you can use to create your own plan in an afternoon (assuming you know your financial data, and with the end of the year and tax time coming soon, if you don’t, you may want to start compiling that).  It doesn’t have to be perfect or comprehensive.  Just put something down on paper and you can come back to it and keep revising as you have time. The important thing is to get started building that plan to reach your goals so your business knows where it’s going!

Description of Your Business
– Basic Business Info
– Management
– Legal Business Info
– What your business offers
– Who you offer your products/services to

Business Objectives: Just jot down a quick list of what you need to do to be successful, such as provide quality products, ensure good customer service, continue to meet the needs of your target market, etc.

Current Business Information: The basics about your business.
– You current business income and expenses information
– Your business assets
– Tools (computers, equipment, etc)
– Client database
– Newsletter
– Web presence & brand
– Other assets
– Current marketing strategies
– Business value

Business Goals: Where is your business going?
– What are your 6 month, 12 month, and 2 year goals?
– What are your income goals?
– What do you need to reach that income?
– X sales at $X each
– X new customers per month

Marketing Plan: How will you reach your goals?
– Product/service strategies
– Which products/services are your focus?
– Do you have plans to for new products in 2009?
– Marketing tactics planned for 2009
(We’ll talk more about the marketing plan section in next week’s newsletter.)

Business Future:
A short description of where you want your business to be in the future

You’ll find that making time to figure out and write down your goals, then break them down into the necessary steps, will make them feel more “real” and “attainable” — and when you know exactly what to do to reach your goals, it’s easier to reach them.  You wouldn’t try to drive your car or pilot a jet blind.  So don’t run your business blind.  Make a plan!

Once you’ve completed a basic internal business plan, make at least two copies.  File copy one along with your other important business documents.  Keep copy two somewhere that you’ll see it and can refer to it frequently.  This way you’ll be reminded of your goals and keep working towards them.

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