Are you someone who’s always wanted to own your own business? Maybe your dream is to be your own boss, or maybe you have an idea for a product or service the world needs to see. Regardless of why you want to go into business for yourself, there’s one thing you absolutely must do; write a business plan.
Why? A business plan will act as a guide for future decisions. You’re essentially proving that your business can be a success logistically and financially, and that it’s worth pursuing.
Would you sit down and write an essay with no prior research or thought? Of course not. You’d most likely dig into your topic, create an outline, etc. Writing your business plan should be the same way. Here are some things to keep in mind before you begin to write.
1) What makes your business unique? How are you going to stand out? Have an answer for what your brand experience, products and values are and how these will be communicated to the customer.
2) Keep it concise. No one’s going to want to read pages and pages of minute detail. Keep your business plan as short and to the point as possible.
3) Be aware of formatting. As you write, keep your reader in the back of your mind. Shorter paragraphs, appropriately sized headers, bullet points, bold words and highlighted areas all indicate to readers what your most important points are. Whatever you do, stay away from long blocks of text since these can be hard to get through!
Ready to write your plan? Here’s what you need to include.
1) Title Page and Table of Contents
2) Executive Summary
- Covers the key takeaways, including internal and external considerations. Don’t forget to mention what you want (aka what you’re asking for) in order to get your business off the ground.
3) Business Description
- What is your company going to do? How is it structured? Location? Mission statement? Answer the who, what, when, where and why of your business here.
4) Market Analysis
- What industry are you in? Who are your competitors? Who is your target audience? If you want to open up a coffee shop, become an expert in the coffee shop industry and put your key findings here.
5) Products and Services
- What is it that you’re going to sell to customers and how can it benefit them? In other words, why should people buy from you? This is also the place to include what differentiates your products/services from others.
6) Operations and Management
- How will your company work logistically? What will the employee structure look like? Who will be responsible for what?
7) Marketing and Design
- How will you actually sell your product to the public? This section covers branding, sales strategy and market penetration.
8) Financial Plan
- This is an outline of all your costs, projections and requests – basically anything that has to do with money. How much will start up costs be? Overhead? When can you expect to be profitable?
- If you’d like to include extra documents such as legal notes, certifications or even resumes, this is the place to do so.
You know the saying, “Fake it, ’til you make it?” Now is the time to do so. You might not be a successful company yet, but you want your business plan to give the impression that you are. Make sure it’s professionally printed and bound. Formatting should be consistent and clean, and always make sure it has been proofread by multiple people for spelling and grammar!