Business Plans Kit For Dummies
The best way — make that the only way — to achieve business success is to have a solid business plan. A business plan is critical to finding a successful course through turbulent times. You need to take advantage of a great idea by creating the most effective business plan you can.
Attributes of a Winning Business Idea
Before you can have an effective business plan, you must have a great business idea. An effective business plan can help turn a good business idea for a company into a great one. Ask yourself these questions to evaluate your idea:
Is your business idea something you really want to spend time doing?
Do you have the resources, connections, skills, and experience to turn your business idea into a success story?
Can you explain your business idea in 25 words or less?
Does your business idea address or solve a real customer need, problem, or desire?
Will you offer something new or different than the competition?
Does your business idea take advantage of a new opportunity? Is your business idea the right one at the right time?
Will your business idea make money — and how fast?
Key Components of a Business Plan
Writing a business plan is a big task, and no two business plans are alike. But almost all effective plans include the following major elements. As you write your business plan, come back to this list to make sure your plan is complete and thorough.
Executive summary: The major points of your business plan in two pages or less
Company overview: Your mission, vision, values, products, unique attributes, and the business opportunity you plan to seize
Business environment: An analysis of your industry, your marketplace, your customers, your competition, and how you stack up
Company description: The capabilities that give you a unique advantage over your competitors — including your management, technology, operations, distribution, service, finances, and marketing
Company strategy: Your roadmap to the future (including how you’ll seize opportunities and avoid threats), your growth plans, your marketing plan, and even your exit strategy
Financial review: The state of your finances, including your income statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement, profit projection, and budget
Action plan: Steps you’ll take to implement your business plan to meet your goals and objectives
Five Ways to Ensure an Effective Business Plan
No matter whether you’re a new or existing business, effective business planning is essential. Not only do you need to put time into the planning process, but you need to involve the right people as well. Effective business planning combines common sense and a few basic strategies:
Set aside enough time for business planning. The time you spend will save you far more time once it’s up and running.
Involve everyone who will ultimately help make your plan happen in the planning process. Good plans should guide and inspire.
Set clear goals and objectives with measurable outcomes and feet-to-the-fire timelines.
Gather all the information you need. An effective plan depends on a complete and accurate understanding of your market, your customers, your financial situation, and your business environment.
Write a plan that people will read. A business plan only works if people use it, so you need to create a plan that is concise, complete, and readable.
Evaluating Your Business Plan
Great business ideas can come from anyone anywhere in your company. Each time you review and revise your business plan, actively solicit suggestions and ideas throughout your company. Consider asking employees the following ten questions:
Is the company communicating its vision, mission, and strategic plan to employees? If not, how would you suggest we do a better job?
Are the business goals and objectives outlined in the plan clear and appropriate?
Do your own duties and responsibilities help support the company’s goals and strategic direction?
Can you suggest specific changes in the way your work is done that will help the company better meet its goals?
Can you suggest ways to improve the company’s overall operations?
Do company procedures get in the way of your doing your best job? If so, how do you suggest changing them?
Are you aware of changes in the industry — including our customers and our competitors — that should be addressed in our business plan?
Can you suggest ways we can enhance the value we offer our customers?
Can you think of additional ways to market our products and services?
If you were in charge of revising the business plan, what other changes would you make?