October 31, 2017

Building a Business Plan

Benjamin Franklin said many things but one of my favorite quotes is, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” It's one of my favorites because it is something I have to work on daily. I am not a planner. I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl and as I grew with the Chamber, it became a working goal for me and my boss and mentors. I find that I am not alone in this struggle. Most business owners I have worked with, even if they are planners by nature, get busy in their business and forget to work their plan.

What does your business plan look like? Is it a scratch piece of paper with some bullet points and direction that you work on daily or weekly, or is it a drafted plan with a strategic calendar of to-do's? I'm guessing, if you have one, it's somewhere in the middle and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

As the end of the year nears, this is the perfect time to evaluate and adjust your plan, set goals and get ready for 2018. If you didn't put a business plan in writing or are looking to expand on it, here is a guideline to assist in that process.

1. An Executive Summary – this sets the tone for the plan and helps you put into words your purpose. Include your mission and vision statement here.

2. Who is your customer now and potential customers should you expand? Know their basic demographics, correlated product purchases, purchase habits – online or in store, etc.

3. Who are your competitors? This is more important than you think. Write one to two sentences about what sets you apart from them, positives and negatives.

4. Where are your current supplies coming from and who are your vendors? Is there an opportunity to renegotiate contacts or save money?

5. What is your employee structure or organization chart? Include in this everything you outsource and current or potential employee roles.

6. Marketing plan overview – break this down into social media, collateral/signage, direct mail, print, online, radio/television, etc. Do you have any plans in place to improve your SEO? If not, see this webpage to learn more about how places like Victorious can help you to build a successful marketing strategy.

7. Budget and financials – include current profit and loss as well as projections. Be as detailed as possible and try to drill down into monthly sales projections.

8. Growth projections – this ties into the budget and financials but I believe it warrants its own section. You have to plan to grow every year and don't be afraid to dream big!

9. Plan Summary. I feel this is the final detail that allows you to work the plan, not just have a plan. Take the highlights from each of these sections and put it on a one-page summary that you can post somewhere you see every day.

This is an easy and simplified template to help get you started and set you on the right path for 2018. The Small Business Administration or any of the Small Business Development Centers in the region can assist with this process if you just can't seem to get going on your own. I am true believer in writing down and speaking out loud your goals. It's amazing what you can accomplish by seeing your goals daily and believing they can come true. Good luck and let's plan on kicking 2018's booty!

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