Writing A Business Plan Without Loosing Your Mind

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by Sarah Von

Writing A Business Plan Without Loosing Your Mind

 

This is a guest post by Darcie DeFoe. Darcie is a Marketing professional, with a fine arts background, not afraid to tackle problems from the ground up. Raised in rural Minnesota, she’s traded dirt roads and wildflowers for spreadsheets and elbow grease. These days, you’ll find her working for an environmental company or along side her husband on a mega-exciting brewery startup.

 

Writing a business plan can seem totally, totally overwhelming.  Where to start?  Who to talk to?  Is that the sound of my brain melting?  Never fear!  If you break down the process into a few manageable steps, it’s completely do able.

 

Research (ready, set…)

 

  • Collect news articles, images, anything that might be relevant to your project and ORGANIZE. Private website, Google docs, directories on your computer or an old fashioned 3-ring binder – get all of your ducks in a row and give them each a name. Keep collecting and refer to them later, when needed. This is a good way to keep yourself reminded of why you want to do take on this project. Consider it inspiration, in addition to being a reference guide.

  • Visit your local business library to find templates or the actual business plans from other companies in your industry. Make friends with the librarians and learn how to mine sources such as Dun & Bradstreet’s Million Dollar Database, the Census Bureau, and trade journals for market info, consumer data and demographics.

  • Find out the NAICS (The North American Industry Classification System) codes and/or SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) codes for your industry and write them down. If it doesn’t mean anything now, it will.

  • Pay your local Small Business Association a visit. Often times, they can help you get your hands on the research resources you’ll need. Later, they might even be able to find you some financial resources.

  • Seriously consider finding legal representation if you don’t already have it. You don’t have to hire an attorney right away, but getting your feelers out there for one when the time comes won’t hurt.

 

Record (the guts of your biz plan)

 

  • Executive Summary. Outline your objectives and state the case for your business. Consider this the ‘elevator speech.’ Tell the reader why your business is The Best and be concise.

  • History Lesson. How did your company start? What was the impetus for your service or product? What is the passion behind the idea?

  • The Primary Goal! Tell the reader what goals you plan to achieve with this company, in the near and mid-distant future. Give your vision for the company in 2 years, five…ten. Who are the customers that get you there?

  • You Are the Best. List EVERY SINGLE ONE of your strengths and the strengths of your partners, as pertains to your business. Be sure to include the responsibilities of each party.

  • You Are an Original. Brainstorm all the reasons your business is unique and painstakingly describe the service or product you plan to offer.

  • Build the corporate story. Describe the market potential for your product or service. Pull together your marketing strategy. “If you build it, they will come” isn’t going to cut it in the real world. Be sure you can explain inside and out, how you will spread the word about your business, how much it will cost and how you intend to promote this baby. If it’s applicable, include designs, logos, photos or diagrams to help illustrate your story.

  • Dollar Bill$ You don’t have to be a financial wizard to do this, although that would probably help. Make yourself a spreadsheet or, better yet, get financial management software and start figuring your income, cash-flow, etc. for three to five years of business. Show that your business model is viable, and prove it with numbers.

  • The Best Laid Plans. Sadly, sometimes plans fall through. Be sure you are able to explain the breaking point of your business and outline the milestones of getting out while protecting yourself and investors. On the good side, an exit strategy can also include which benchmarks indicate you might be able to sell your business for a profit.

 

Network

 

So, you’ve written a plan, checked it twice and are ready to roll. Start at the top of the list and talk to every friend, acquaintance and contact you’ve met along the way about your idea, and start sharing your business plan. (BTW, this is probably where your attorney starts to get involved...) Some of them are sure to love your great ideas. Good Luck!!

 

Photo Credit :: Darcie DeFoe

 

Share your tips on writing a "stress-free" business plan, in the comments!