Do you hear the phrase “business plan” and automatically groan? Me, too. There is so much pressure around business plans — whether you need one, what it needs to include, how it should be formatted, etc. Whether you’re starting a web design business or some other new venture, the term “business plan” can have a horrible connotation and instill fear and overwhelm into anyone.
I’m not going to say that business plans don’t have value because they can be one of the most powerful tools to have when you’re starting a business or new venture. But if you’re not seeking financial support, planning to incorporate, working with multiple partners or pitching a joint venture, you don’t necessarily need a formal, structured business plan.
In fact, you can get started with a business plan in the time it takes you to read this post. Grab a piece of paper and jot down some notes as you read and you’ll be on your way to creating a much less scary but possibly equally effective planning document. Here’s what your abbreviated business plan should include.
A mission statement explains the purpose of your business. It should be short and to the point, and focus on the goals of your initiative. You know you have an effective mission statement if it answers the question: “Why are you starting this business or venture?”
For example, the Coca Cola Company’s mission is: to refresh the world; to inspire moments of optimism and happiness; to create value and make a difference.
You probably have goals for your new venture, but until you have them in black and white and run them through the SMART test by checking that they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound, it’s hard to figure out what you need to do to achieve your goals. It’s a good idea to set goals that span the short-term and the long-term (1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, etc.).
An example goal could be to have seven ongoing clients and make $XXXX/month by six months after the business launches.
Strategies outline what needs to happen in order to make your goals a reality. How are you going to build your business over time so you can reach your short-term and long-term goals?
Your strategies for gaining seven clients in six months could be to send letters to contacts, execute a social media marketing plan, ask for referrals, provide an exceptional experience for your clients through high quality work and great customer service.
Money, Money, Money
Money is a big part of your business planning, and without a business budget you will likely struggle to become and stay profitable. First, you’ll want to consider the startup expenses — what will it cost to start your new venture? Then, outline the ongoing costs of running your business. Compare these numbers to your anticipate income as well as future income streams, and figure out what you need to do to make your business profitable.
What’s missing here?
There is one huge chunk missing from this abbreviated business plan — marketing. Marketing is such a significant part of your planning process that you can’t take the same shortcuts to fit it into your short business plan. But you can follow a similar process and focus on some key elements to create a non-overwhelming and very useful marketing plan. Stay tuned for my next post which will walk you thorough an abbreviated marketing plan.
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