Running a business without a plan is like driving a car with a blindfold on. A business plan removes the blindfold, creates a map, and prepares you for all the twists and turns in the road. While you may think the only goal of a business plan is to seek funding, in the long run, a business plan is written for you, to help you set goals, decide when and how to grow, and develop a compelling message of why you will be successful.
As a small business owner, you are probably working long hours and still not getting everything done. If you are working this hard, make sure it is worth the effort. Again, this is where a business plan comes in. For example, if you forecast earning of $20,000 a year, is this good news? Maybe, but maybe not. Wouldn’t it be good to know this before you invest too much of your personal resources and time?
Business plan styles range from informal, back-of-the-envelope sketches to 30-page plans with illustrations and exhibits. Common to all styles is a clear message. Which style you choose depends on a number of factors, including, are you seeking funding, are you starting a new business or growing an established business, is the business complex and in need of much explaining?
If you are planning to grow your business, focus on markets, products, and services, in addition to having sufficient resources. If you trying to solve an operations issue, focus on that particular matter, such as staffing, cash flow, operations, or vendors. A business that is focusing on increasing sales may determine after talking with its customers, looking at its competition, and conducting research, that it needs to enhance the awareness of its products and services in the marketplace and, in particular, the online marketplace.
Remember, you must be able to identify your audience, what you would like them to do after reading your plan, and what information they need to favorably take that action. The audience could be a banker, an angel investor, a key vendor, a contracting official, a key customer, etc. It is your plan that will make the difference, in the long run.