Do You Have A Plan? By John Young

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A business plan is probably one of the most boring parts of a small business start up. Yet, it is one of the most needed and beneficial tools in getting your business up and running successfully.
A business plan is basically a document that gives you the who, what, where, when and why of operating a business.
This can be a simple one page plan or it could be a much larger document with pages of information about how the business will be run.
As a small business owner, a business plan really becomes a formal way to think through your business and it gives you some idea on what you should be doing and where to put your time and money focus.
Can you operate your business without one? Well, yes, you can. You will find it much easier to know when you are on track, and when you are off track with a simple but well written business plan. If you are looking for financing for your business start up or expansion, a business plan is part of what you will need to provide the lender to show you know what you are going to be doing.
So, what does a business plan consist of? Really, it is just a flow of the thought process for running your business. Think of the business plan as an outline to start with and add things in as you go along. A business plan can be modified as your business grows or as situations dictate.
There are many resources online along with books on this topic that will go into great depths on writing your business plan. My suggestion is to not get overwhelmed at first. Start with a simple thought process business plan and work up to more in-depth as needed.
For a simple one page, here are some key components you should cover:
1. Identify Customers: Who are you going to be selling to? Identify the type of person who would buy from your business in as great of detail as you can. This part helps tremendously when you get to your advertising and marketing if you have defined your ideal customers.
2. USP Unique Selling Proposition: What are you offering and why are you different? You might have a new spin on something. You might be offering something new. You might be offering better service. You need to know what makes buying from you different than buying from your competitors.
3. Selling What And How Much: What are you going to be selling to your ideal customer? For businesses with fewer items for sale, you would also look at the selling price for the main items or services you would be selling.
4. Customer Prospecting, Engagement and Retaining: How are you going to find and keep your customers. If you are only doing a one time sale, then customer retention isn’t that important. Most businesses survive on their ability to find and retain customers. This is the starting point of your marketing plan.
So far these few steps in this one page plan could save many businesses a lot of money by defining the client side and sales side enough to help guide the advertising investments properly.
5. Income Projections: This part looks at number of potential sales, potential income, methods of payments, and potential to grow income over the next 1, 2 and 5 years.
6. Business Resources: What resources do you require to function? These can include physical, human, financial and intellectual resources.
7. Key Activities: Ask yourself what activities need to take place in order to deliver to your customers? Focus on the activities that are closely connected to what the customer is buying over more mundane day to day tasks that are not directly connected with sales and delivery of service.
8. Networking Circle: Networking is a huge part of today business world. Even small town businesses need to think about networking. Who or where will you make time each week/month/quarter to network with others to help boost and grow your business?
9. Cost Structure: Look at fixed and variable costs so that you can see what can be improved upon as your business grows. Some expenses are short term and some are ongoing. Look at ALL expenses involved with running your business and set your pricing of your offerings accordingly while allowing for a profit for your labor.
There are nine areas that would help you think your way through a plan for your business. It isn’t the most exciting process, but it is a critical process to think through the who, what, when, where, and why of running your small business.
John Young is the founder of Small Town Business Do It Yourself (DIY). You can send questions on social media and website design to John at [email protected]