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Cheat Sheet

Business Plans For Dummies

From Business Plans For Dummies, 2nd Edition by Paul Tiffany, Steven D. Peterson

A well-developed business plan is critical for any start-up business. To develop a thorough business plan, research your customers and competition; avoid mistakes that lead to business failure; and know how to implement a business plan and make it work. Your business plan should include a basic financial statement, all major pieces of a business plan, and information from your business-planning checklist.

Basic Financial Statements for Your Business Plan

A large part of your business plan includes your financial statements. Financial statements are formal records of your business’s financial activities; they provide a summary (short and long term) of your financial condition. The four basic financial statements are

  • Income statement: Your bottom line ¯ subtracting costs from revenue to come up with net profit

  • Balance sheet: A financial snapshot that shows what you own, what you owe, and what your company is worth

  • Cash flow statement: A cash monitor that follows the flow of cash in and out of your company

  • Budget: Your financial forecast that indicates where you plan to make and spend money

Writing Business Plans: How to Identify Customers and Competitors

A critical part of a successful business plan is identifying your customers and the competition. Solid business plans incorporate research on potential customers and competitors. Begin by asking the following questions, and then apply the tips on how to become a winning business:

Three Customer Questions

  • Who is buying?

  • What do they buy?

  • Why do they buy?

Three Competitor Questions

  • How big are they?

  • Which customers are they after?

  • What is their strategy?

Three Ways to Win

  • Cut costs to the bone

  • Offer something unique

  • Focus on one customer group

Making a Business Plan Work

A business plan is a strategy for survival that looks at your company today (understanding your surroundings) and then into the future. Your business plan will help you prepare if you include these elements:

  • Plans: Company mission, vision, goals, and objectives that all work together

  • Organization: A structure for your company that makes sense

  • Procedures: Efficient and effective ways of doing things

  • Leadership: An ability to influence and encourage others around you

  • Skills: The talents and expertise your people need to succeed

  • Culture: Beliefs and attitudes that lead to doing the right thing

Basic Parts of a Business Plan

When you’re putting together a business plan, divide the plan into these basic sections — which every quality business plan should have:

  • Executive summary

  • Company overview

  • Business environment

  • Company description

  • Company strategy

  • Financial review

  • Action plan

Business-Planning Checklist

You have a number of essential tasks to complete before you write your business plan. Having a clear picture of your goals and how to attain them is at the core; but consider the other factors on this list of business-planning essentials:

  • Get everyone involved in setting goals and objectives

  • Learn all you can about your customers

  • Understand who your competitors are

  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses relative to opportunities and threats

  • Determine which capabilities you absolutely need to succeed

  • List all the things you do that add customer value

  • Make sure that you do your financial homework

  • Imagine several different versions of your company’s future

How to Avoid Business Failure

Two big mistakes while developing your business plan can cause your new business to fail: lack of research and lack of preparedness. Avoid becoming a failed business by making sure you don't commit those mistakes and the following:

  • Lack of a long-term company vision

  • Failure to establish clear goals and objectives

  • Misunderstanding what customers want

  • Underestimating the competition

  • Inadequate financial planning

  • Lack of strong leadership

  • Ineffective procedures and systems

  • Absence of critical business skills

  • Inability to change

  • Failure to communicate the plan

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