How Do I Build A Winning Business Plan? Part 1

By Paul Santiago
Planning A Business

Starting or running your business without a business plan is asking for trouble!

So you have an idea for a business but don’t know if it’s gonna be viable…you have to start with a business plan!  Using sample business plans and their structure will provide you with the necessary framework to consider your business from every possible angle. A quick Google search can give you samples. The U.S. Small Business Administration is one resource for new businesses, and can guide you in writing a business plan and provide samples. 

It’s always difficult writing everything from scratch, a sample structure can highlight any areas you haven’t fully thought through, but it will also provide you with a good idea of what makes a good business plan, and what doesn’t.

Having a clear business plan with a Mission Statement as a motivational factor in running or starting your business cannot be underestimated. You will find that your commitment continues to build as you collect information, research and write each section.

Armed with your business plan, it can be easier for your company to get Small Business Loans , and gives you credibility as a business owner. 

Lenders and investors want to see your plan with the aim of satisfying key questions before they make their decision to grant funding or not.

Once you’ve got your business up and running, your business plan will act as your standard of measure, and help you determine where you expect to be against where you actually are. It will help keep you on your path. 

Sample Business Plan Structure

All plans should include at least the elements listed below, and perhaps additional sections depending on the type of industry.

  • Executive Summary (Including your Mission Statement)
  • Company Background
  • Products or Service Overview
  • Unique Selling Proposition and competitive advantage
  • The Marketplace
  • Operations
  • Leadership and management profiles including professional competencies
  • Professional Support
  •  Risks and Threats assessment
  • Financial forecasts including key assumptions
  • Relevant Appendices

Collecting the information for all the sections is time consuming and sometimes difficult. Thank goodness for the internet, a lot of information is at our fingertips.  Investigate competitors by reading client reviews, where did they excel, where did they fall short? Visit forums dedicated to your topic of choice. Send surveys to family and friends that you feel are your target market. 

If you are not familiar with spreadsheet software, constructing the necessary financial forecasts represents a significant hurdle. You have 2 choices:

Pay someone to put part or all of the plan together for you, or a small investment in some business planning software.

The advantage of using a professional is you will receive the benefits of their experience, combined with a professional looking plan. I opted for the first option. I hired a professional and was very happy with the results, if I did it on my own it would have taken me ages and would probably be inaccurate anyways. 

One caveat if you hire a professional, because you will not have been as involved in its preparation, you won’t be as familiar with its contents as you should be. Make sure to learn the contents well.

So many great ideas end at just being ideas. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen family create a side hustle only to burn out or lose momentum. First things first, put in the work in your business plan, and if it’s profitable for you, you’ll be full steam ahead. 

Remember:

“It’s the quality of the information you put into it that determines what comes out.”

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