Mention the words “business plan” to a new business owner and you’ll probably immediately see them cringe and slowly edge toward the exit door.
Business plans have gotten a bad rap for two reasons.
First, they intimidate and overwhelm business owners who are already on start-up overload.
Second, they question if there’s enough benefit for the work and effort it requires, especially if they aren’t planning on getting a bank loan or presenting their business to investors.
But, no matter how big or small your business is, creating a clear plan is a worthwhile and essential step in preparing your business for success.
Why a business plan is important
Alan Williams, the co-author of The 31 Practices, says business plans forces organizations to do two things.
First, it requires a business owner to get to the “Why” behind the passion that made them want to create the business in the first place. This involves outlining the values and vision that will create the foundation they’ll grow from.
Second, they’ll need to map out the “How”, or the process, to get that product or service ready for market.
Still, seems like a lot of work? Well, yes, it takes some time, serious thought, and concentration to do this right, but there are long-term benefits that can save you time, money, and a lot more effort down the pike.
Got your attention now?
Start with a good template
Creating a business plan can be made much simpler if you start with a solid template foundation that can walk you step-by-step through the process.
I provide a good business plan and budget template in my Senior Downsizing Specialist training program because I know that time is precious for new business owners, especially during start-up.
So, let’s walk through the basics of what you can expect when completing a business template.
First, keep it simple and concise. For instance, you’ll start by writing a short business summary. What is the purpose of your business? Who are you serving? How will your customer’s life change or improve after you’ve helped them? This is a short paragraph, nothing lengthy.
What’s your mission?
Next is the mission statement. There are a lot of opinions about mission statements and how they should be formatted. Some suggest a 3-tiered structure that outlines the vision of the company, the values that drive its services, and a statement of goals.
However, after years of creating complex statements for businesses I worked for and for my own, I realized that they were too lengthy to be able to comfortably recite on queue. Frankly, people just weren’t interested in hearing dialog about values and rah-rah language.
Why? Because they didn’t see a direct correlation to how it would affect them as a customer.
So, here’s my take. Create a mission statement that’s short, straightforward, and shows a direct benefit to your customer.
For instance, a mission statement for my company might be: “Starting a new business from scratch can be overwhelming and time-consuming. That’s why at The Downsizing Institute, we’re passionate about providing real-life, comprehensive senior downsizing training to our students. We do that by making the start-up process easier using a step-by-step plan, so students can launch their businesses faster and feel confident day one”.
Key strategies to implement your business services
Next on the business plan agenda is a shortlist of key strategies you’ll use to implement your business services and fulfill your business goals.
Again, using a senior downsizing business example, this might include:
- Outreach to local senior retirement communities for downsizing seminars and a potential partnership as their designated downsizing specialist, etc.
- Develop vendor or business partnerships such as movers, in-home care companies, Realtors and other related businesses that serve the senior community.
- Create an ongoing sales funnel of advertising with sources that have high senior readership or viewership.
Who’s your target market?
Next up on your plan, outline your target market. Seniors might seem obvious as your primary service target, but there are other important customer sources that can provide you with additional business opportunities and I include them in my training.
One of the largest, and most lucrative, are the retirement communities in your area. So, create an outline in your plan on the steps you’ll take to create those important relationships.
Define your services
Next outline the list of your services and how they can be used to not only benefit your customers but set you apart from your competition. What makes you unique in your marketplace? Where are your competitors dropping the ball in providing critical services your clients need?
Once you have that, it’s time to outline a basic marketing plan.
Outline your marketing plan
What type of advertising will you employ? How often? Since you will probably have several different customer types, you’ll need to include advertising formats that work for each group.
This will range from basic start-up tools like a website, a brochure, and a business card, to more advanced marketing like using social media to build your brand and get the word out on your new business.
What are your sales and income goals?
You can’t have a plan without a goal. So, what are your first-year sales and income goals? How many moves or other types of services do you need to meet that goal?
My Introduction to Senior Downsizing as a Business course includes a simple worksheet exercise that makes it easy to estimate the amount and type of services you’ll need to reach your income target.
Now that you have the basic information on what your business offers, who you’re offering it to and why you’re on this journey in the first place, you need a plan to implement it all.
Define your labor strategy
To implement, you’ll need a team.
It’s time to sit down and figure out your team structure. Are you going this alone and working part-time? Are you full-time and need multiple employees? Or are you outsourcing your labor?
These are important questions that must be carefully thought out and planned for because they have tax and profit implications.
And the last piece of the puzzle for a basic business plan is the financial component. Are you self-financed? Need a business loan to get started? Looking for a grant?
Know that you’ll need at least 6-months savings to cover your personal living costs and any business start-up expenses.
If you don’t have a lot of savings, that means you need to get up and running quickly, because it takes time to build business exposure and develop important business relationships in your community.
That’s it! You’ve just walked through a basic business plan! That wasn’t so scary, right?
Oh, and remember those benefits I mentioned at the beginning of this post?
Well, the good news is that when you do all this due diligence upfront, odds are you’re going to avoid making a lot of common mistakes that could cost you money later. It will also save you a whole lot of stress and time by not having to go back to re-do or fix those mistakes.
So, no doubt about it! A business plan is your friend. Take the time, get it done and you’ll be happy you did!