Many small business and Internet marketing resources recommend creating and using a business plan before starting any (online) business.
But lots of people experience problems creating them or even don’t know what exactly a business plan is and what purposes it serves. So first, let’s dive into that.
Basically, a business plan is a formal statement of a set of business goals, the arguments why they’re considered achievable and the detailed steps necessary to take in order to reach those goals. Usually a planning in time is included.
It may also contain further background information, but the set of goals are the core of a business plan
Chess Players Planning
The main goal of a business plan is to
serve as decision-making tool.
You see, while executing all steps described in your business plan, you will encounter new options, new possibilities, unforeseen problems, alternatives and so on. That means you have decisions to take and your business plan will always be your guide in the process.
It’s a reference point that keeps you focused on what you’re trying to achieve.
During the life time of a business, you can distinguish several levels of plans:
the establishment stage of the business,
launch of a new product or activity,
opening of a new area or segment of the market (local / global) and
some strategic development impacting on the business structure or framework.
These levels are a bit arbitrary as they can vary a lot depending on the sort of business, but in general they will do.
Like the different levels of plans, there are also different levels of users. If you have employees to execute the steps in your business plan, or even in case you are outsourcing tasks, job descriptions can be derived and described from those steps mentioned in the business plan. Which leads to well outlined tasks and procedures.
Besides their individual tasks, all users also need to understand the interrelating parts, in the functioning of the business, hence making the business plan play a crucial role in planning the business and running it successfully from all imaginable angles.
There are no fixed rules that apply to creating a business plan. Some kind of bulleted list of plans and the necessary steps to achieve them is always a great format to start with. Depending on the audience presented to, it can be changed to suit the audience, like banks or investors.
Now, this may all sound like great theory, but how do you create a practical business plan?
The problem here is, that although there’s outstanding help and some good resources available (a few of which I will mention below), the entrepreneur is the best person on-the-spot, because he or she holds the baby – the business. No one else would know that baby better than the father or the mother, who conceived and nurtured it and carries on doing so.
To give a business plan a shine, the (occasional) assistance of a professional may be necessary, but the nitty-gritty and facts need to come from the entrepreneur. And the advantage of that is that in the end, no one will know the facts and figures of the plan better than the deviser.
So it’s much better to start yourself first, disregarding format, lay-out and style. A presentation of facts based on data is always a good start.
In general, here’s what you can do:
write definitions of concrete policies,
assemble data from commercial feasibility studies and
the market – in terms of estimates of customers, prices and market share,
estimate a down-to-earth realistic forecast of increase rates for months/years, and
cost calculations for implementing the various planned actions.
From there, you can develop your Internet marketing plan:
– your market in terms of target audience with money to spend,
– where to find your target market and
– how you can reach them.
If you need some help creating your own business plan, here are some great resources:
Small Business Administration (SBA),
A Sample Internet Business Plan by Elizabeth Lenert, a University business student,
Center for Business Plans,
Your Business Roadmap from my good friend Bev Clement, who’s an expert in the field.
You can also Google the term ’sample business plan’, but most of the sites that show up want to sell you their plans or software.
So, a good business plan always is a dynamic document.
It should reflect current performance and state of your business by a systematic assessment and reporting mechanism, that measures against stated objectives.
And it should project actions and steps necessary to undertake in the near future.
From there, more general and less detailed ideas can be developed for the directions the business should take on the longer term.
Thus, your business plan allows you to achieve success in planning and making the right decisions at all stages and eventualities of the business.
What’s your take on business plans?