Dave Lavinsky - Contributor Forbes.com
Whether you’re starting or growing your business, you need a business plan. Your plan will provide the roadmap to achieve the success you want. The question shouldn’t be IF you write your plan, but how to write a business plan that will take your company where you want to go.
Your business plan is essentially your answers to a comprehensive list of questions. The first and most important question is this: where do you want your business to go? Stated differently, what do you want your business to look like in three, five or even 10 or more years? What level of revenues and profits do you have at that time? How many employees? How many locations? And so on.
Likewise, your business plan should answer these questions for a shorter time period, particularly one year.
That is, what are your business’ goals for the current year, and what must you accomplish to make the year a success.
In answering these big business planning questions, you naturally have to answer questions pertaining to each of the core business plan sections as follows:
1. Company Analysis:
what products and/or services do you offer now and/or what will you develop and offer in the future ?
2. Industry Analysis :
how big is/are your market(s) and how are they changing? What trends are affecting them and do these trends bode well for your future success?
3. Competitive Analysis:
ho are your competitors and what are each of their key strengths and weaknesses? In what areas will you have or gain competitive advantage? How?
4. Customer Analysis :
who are your target customers? What are their demographic and/or psychographic profiles? What are their needs?
5. Marketing Plan:
how will your reach your target customers? What promotional tactics and marketing channels will you use? How will you price your products and/or services? What brand positioning do you desire for each?
6. Management Team:
who comprises your current team and what key hires must you make in order to execute on the opportunity in front of you. Will you build a Board of Advisors or Directors, and if so, who will you seek?
7. Operations Plan:
what is your action plan? What are the milestones you must accomplish to go from where you are now to where you want to be at year’s end? At the end of five years
how much external funding (if applicable) do you need to build your company? In what areas will these funds be invested? What are your projected revenues and profits over the next one to five years? What assets must you acquire?
Answering the questions in these eight key business plan sections helps you formulate specific business goals.
They also help you answer the most important question to include when you write the *Executive Summary* of your business plan, which is this: why is your business uniquely qualified to succeed?
There are many reasons why your business might be uniquely qualified to succeed.
For example, it could be the quality of your management team. Or unique technology and/or partnerships you’ve created.
But importantly, if you have no unique qualifications, it’s too easy for competitors to steal your customers and market share at any time.
So, if you’re thinking right now about how to write a business plan, sit down and start answering the questions outlined above.
It’s the thinking and strategizing part which is actually more important than the writing part.
Sure, if you want others to read and/or fund your business, your plan has to read well and be formatted properly. But it’s the content in the business plan, your strategy and reasons why you’ll succeed, that will prompt others to invest or otherwise join you in your conquest to build a thriving business!
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