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The Business Plan

Provided by My Own Business, Content Partner for the SME Toolkit

OBJECTIVE: The business plan is the key ingredient for a successful business and is often ignored. This session shows you how to create an individualized business plan, and provides the tools to make it easy.

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What is a Business Plan?

Testimonial
Antoinette Douglas
Mother Love Family Day Care
"Find out what it is that you really want to do, go to college, and get an education in that field."
Transcription - html

The primary value in learning how to write a business plan will be to create a written outline that evaluates all aspects of the economic viability of your business venture including a description and analysis of your business prospects.

Since this course is broken down into twelve of the most important aspects to consider in starting a business, your business plan can follow this same format. Included in this session and in each of the following sessions there is a sample business plan outline covering each subject, that will aid you when learning how to write a business plan. When you put these all together, you will have a starting model for your overall plan.

John Powers Attorney-at-Law John Powers
Attorney-at-Law
Play Video
From the standpoint of business organization, what mistakes do you see people making most often?

A business plan is an essential step for any prudent entrepreneur to take, regardless of the size of the business. This step is too often skipped, but we make it easy for you to learn how to write a business plan, by providing a format to build your plan as you progress through this course.

Business plans can vary enormously. Libraries and bookstores have books devoted to business plan formats. But this course is a place to start. You can then go on from here to design one that would be ideal for your particular enterprise.

 

Dr. Dan Nathanson Anderson Graduate School of Business UCLA Dr. Dan Nathanson
Anderson Graduate School of Business UCLA
Play Video
How much should I tell people about my idea when preparing my business plan?
 

Be aware now that most start-up entrepreneurs are reluctant to write down their business plan. It is therefore strongly recommended that you complete each segment of the plan as you progress through this course. We make it easy for you by providing sample plans for both product and service businesses and also an attractive blank form that you can download onto MS Word and customize yourself.

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Why Prepare a Business Plan?

Testimonial
Ezequiel Padilla
Jugos Tropicales Mexican Food
"When your business is doing well, consider buying the property if it is possible."
Transcription - html

Learning how to write a business plan is going to be useful in a number of ways. Here are some of the reasons not to skip this valuable tool.

  • First and foremost, it will define and focus your objective using appropriate information and analysis.
  • You can use it as a selling tool in dealing with important relationships including your lenders, investors and banks.
  • You can use the plan to solicit opinions and advice from people, including those in your intended field of business, who will freely give you invaluable advice. Too often, entrepreneurs forge ahead ("My Way!") without the benefit of input from experts who could save them a great deal of wear and tear. "My Way" is a great song, but in practice can result in unnecessary hardships.
  • Business Plan Review List
    Click To View
  • Your business plan can uncover omissions and/or weaknesses in your planning process.

What to Avoid in Your Business Plan

Place some reasonable limits on long-term, future projections. (Long-term means over one year.) Better to stick with short-term objectives and modify the plan as your business progresses. Too often, long-range planning becomes meaningless because the reality of your business can be different from your initial concept.

Maureen Costello Wholesale Distributor Maureen Costello
Wholesale Distributor
Play Video
If you had to do it over again, what things would you do differently?

Avoid optimism. In fact, to offset optimism, be extremely conservative in predicting capital requirements, timelines, sales and profits. Few business plans correctly anticipate how much money and time will be required.

Do not ignore spelling out what your strategies will be in the event of business adversities.

Use simple language in explaining the issues. Make it easy to read and understand.

Don't depend entirely on the uniqueness of your business or even a patented invention. Success comes to those who start businesses with great economics and not necessarily great inventions.

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Business Plan Format: A Systematic Assessment of all the Factors Critical to Your Business Purpose and Goals

Testimonial
Mari Lohr
 Graphic Artist
"Being in business for yourself is not for everyone."
Transcription - html

Here are some suggested topics you can tailor into your plan:

  • A vision statement: This will be a concise outline of what your business purpose and goals will be.
  • The people: By far the most important ingredient for your success will be yourself. Focus on how your prior experiences will be applicable to your new business. Prepare a resume of yourself and one for each person who will be involved with you in starting the business. Be factual and avoid hype. This part of your business plan will be read very carefully by those with whom you will be having relationships, including lenders, investors and vendors. Templates for preparing resumes are available in your library, Kinko's, bookstores and the Internet under "resumes."
    William H. Crookston, Ph.D. Professor of Clinical Entrepreneurship University of Southern California William H. Crookston, Ph.D.
    Professor of Clinical Entrepreneurship University of Southern California
    Play Video
    We find that many entrepreneurs find it difficult to write out a business plan. Could you cite why this important step should not be overlooked?

    However, you cannot be someone who you are not. If you lack the ability to perform a key function, include this in your business plan. For example, if you lack the ability to train staff, include an explanation how you will compensate for this deficiency. You could add a partner to your plan (discussed in Section 4) or plan to hire key people who will provide skills you don't have. Include biographies of all your intended management.

  • Your business profile: Define and describe your intended business and exactly how you plan to go about it. Try to stay focused on the specialized market you intend to serve.
  • Economic assessment: Provide a complete assessment of the economic environment in which your business will become a part. Explain how your business will be appropriate for the regulatory agencies and demographics with which you will be dealing. If appropriate, provide demographic studies and traffic flow data normally available from local planning departments.
  • Dr. Dan Nathanson Anderson Graduate School of Business UCLA Dr. Dan Nathanson
    Anderson Graduate School of Business UCLA
    Play Video
    What is the difference between a start-up business plan and one for an ongoing business?
  • Cash flow assessment: Include a one-year cash flow that will incorporate your capital requirements. Include your assessment of what could go wrong and how you would plan to handle problems.
  • Include your marketing plan and expansion plans.
  • Refer to helpful government websites such as the Small Business Administration. See "Resources" on the home page of this website.

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Six Steps to a Great Business Plan

Start-up entrepreneurs often have difficulty writing out business plans. This discipline is going to help you in many ways so don't skip this planning tool! To make it easier, here are six steps that will produce a worthwhile plan:

Review the two sample plans furnished in this session.
Focus and refine your concept based on the data you have compiled.
Gather all the data you can on the feasibility and the specifics of your business concept.
Outline the specifics of your business. Using a "what, where, why, how" approach might be useful.
Include your experience, education and personal information.
Fill in the templates at the end of each session with clear language and realistic projections.
Print off the business plan templates from eash session into an MS Word document.
You may wish to enhance your presentation with bar charts, pie charts and graphics.

Start-up entrepreneurs often have difficulty writing out business plans. This discipline is going to help you in many ways so don't skip this planning tool! To make it easier, here are six steps that will produce a worthwhile plan:

  1. Review the two sample plans furnished in this session.
  2. Focus and refine your concept based on the data you have compiled.
  3. Gather all the data you can on the feasibility and the specifics of your business concept.
  4. Outline the specifics of your business. Using a "what, where, why, how" approach might be useful.
  5. Include your experience, education and personal information.
  6. Fill in the templates at the end of each session with clear language and realistic projections.
  7. Print off the business plan templates from each session into an MS Word document.
  8. You may wish to enhance your presentation with bar charts, pie charts and graphics.

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Check Out If Your Plan Includes The Following Necessary Factors Which Will Produce A Successful Business

Testimonial
R.D. McDonnell
Architect
"You'll identify issues that you might not otherwise consider when you put them down on paper."
Transcription - html
  • A sound business concept. The single most common mistake made by entrepreneurs is not picking the right business to begin with. The best way to learn about your prospective business is to work for someone else in that business before beginning your own. There can be a huge gap between your concept of a fine business and reality.
  • Understanding of your market. A good way to test your understanding is to test market your product or service before your start. You think you have a great kite that will capture the imagination of kite fliers throughout the world? Then hand-make some of them and try selling them first.
  • Dr. Dan Nathanson Dr. Dan Nathanson
    Anderson Graduate School of Business UCLA
    Play Video
    What informatiuon should I include in my business plan?
  • A healthy, growing and stable industry. Remember that some of the great inventions of all time, like airplanes and cars, did not result in economic benefit for many of those who tried to exploit these great advances. For example, the cumulative earnings of all airlines since Wilber Wright flew that first plane are less than zero. (Airline losses have been greater than their profits.) Success comes to those who find businesses with great economics and not necessarily great inventions or advances to mankind.
  • Capable management. Look for people who you like and admire, have good ethical values, have complementary skills and are smarter than you. Plan to hire people who have the skills that you lack. Define your unique ability and seek out others who turn your weaknesses into strengths.
  • Able financial control. You will learn later the importance of becoming qualified in accounting, computer software and cash flow management. Most entrepreneurs do not come from accounting backgrounds and must go back to school to learn these skills. Would you bet your savings in a game where you don't know how to keep score? People mistakenly do it in business all the time.
  • A consistent business focus. If you think of specific products or services you will find that specialists will outperform non-specialists. Zero in on something you can do so well that you will not be subject to competing with someone with a lower price.

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Formulate (and Reformulate) Your Business Plan

Ezequiel Padilla Jugos Tropacales Mexican Food Ezequiel Padilla
Jugos Tropacales Mexican Food
Play Audio
I thought I knew everything. But I didn't have the most important thing: a business plan.

Donald N. Sull, associate professor of management practice at the London Business School, in an article in the MIT Sloan Management Review, offers some practical suggestions on managing inevitable risks while pursuing opportunities. Here is a capsulation of his suggestions on how to formulate (and reformulate) your business plan:

  • Be flexible early in the process and keep it fluid. Don't commit too early. Expect your first plan to be provisional and subject to revision.
  • Ask yourself if your experience or expertise gives you the right to an opinion on your specific opportunity.
  • Identify your potential deal killers: variables that are likely to prove fatal to the venture.
  • Clearly identify what you see as the key drivers of success. What are you betting on here?
  • Raise money only in sufficient amount to finance the experiment or evaluation you next envision, with a cushion for contingencies.
  • Delay hiring key managers until initial rounds of experimentation have produced a stable business model.
  • At some point, take the plunge and test your product or service on a small scare in the real world through customer research, test marketing, or prototypes.
  • Test and refine your business model before expanding your operations.

Business Plan for Sessions 1 and 2: The Business Profile, the Vision and the People.

Now is the time for you to review the sample plans we have provided. This will help you in formatting your own plan. For some tips on appropriate information to fill in, refer to the sample business plans:

Sample Business Plan (Product): Widget Corporation
Microsoft Word File MS Word

 

Sample Business Plan (Service): Smith E-Commerce Consulting
Microsoft Word File MS Word

You can now begin to assemble your business plan. If you have not yet selected a business, you can pick one out to practice on. Remember, we have provided attractive, individual business templates for each session that you can download as Microsoft Word documents or as printer friendly web pages. So start now!

Section 1: The Business Profile
Microsoft Word File MS Word

 

Section 2: The Vision and the People
Microsoft Word File MS Word

Instructions on filling in the business plan template:

  1. Each box has a permanent title in CAPITAL LETTERS
  2. Below each title is a sentence starting with an "Insert here…" sentence. This will suggest information to insert. The boxes will enlarge as you take up more room so use all the space you need.
  3. After completing each box, delete the "Insert here" sentence, which will leave only the permanent title of the box and the information you have filled in.

We suggest that you fill in each section of the business plan
as you proceed through the course.

The template for all sessions 1-12 can also be downloaded into your computer as a single document:

Section 1-15: All
Microsoft Word File MS Word

Include sufficient research findings and background materials. Make it interesting up by the use of background data, your biography, charts, demographics and research data. When your business plan is completed, print off and assemble the 15 sections.

Many other business plan formats are available in libraries, bookstores and software.

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