I encourage all of my clients to draft a business plan on two occasions: 1) when first starting a business and 2) when expanding or after three years in business. In fact, I typically won't meet with new business owners that don't have a plan in place. Why?
A plan doesn't have to be a formal, mumbo-jumbo type documents with references to executive summaries and other corporate terms. A plan should be useful for the business owner and act as a roadmap and target. After all, if you don't know where you're going, how can you possibly get there?
A plan will help to refine business goals and establish financial viability. Yes, many of the numbers you will initially plug-in are total guesses, but you have to start somewhere. When you re-visit and re-draft your plan after three years, you'll have real data to relay on that will help you expand your business.
Many owners struggle with what information or data to include. A resource I recommend to all of my clients and that I personally use is Live Plan.
I personally love Live Plan because it lays out all of the necessary categories and financials in an easy to follow way. I never have to guess at what numbers to include and there's even a section that helps me develop my marketing plan.
If you're starting a business or expanding your business, it's time to consider a well thought out plan.
*any links to Live Plan are my affiliate links. I've used this software myself for several businesses after a client told me about it years ago. I may receive a commission if you sign up using my link.
So many people want to start a business, but are afraid of how much it might cost. Make no mistake, you can't start a business without any money. That being said, there are some businesses that can be started with very little money and in this video, I talk about typical sources of where people get money to start a business. I'd make sure to have a thorough business plan in place, so you know exactly what funding you need.
One area I constantly struggle with is planning. With my first business, I was able to plan in small increments (ie: if I had a trade show coming up, I designed my catalog in advance and had samples ready), but I did not plan so well beyond say, 90 days. This led me to world of trouble.
I think part of the problem is I had ideas and I executed on them, and though I knew bits and pieces of where I wanted to go, I just failed to solidify them. I was still able to accomplish a lot, but I constantly felt disorganized and that I was always throwing things against the wall to see what would stick.
Quite honestly, I think business plans in the traditional sense are garbage. Getting some random template and filling in an "executive summary" doesn't exactly get the creative juices flowing. To be most effective, the plan has to be meaningful to the business owner. I suggest the following when planning:
1. Imagine your business in three years: what do you want it to look like, how does it run, who is involved, how much money does it make?
2. What steps do you think you need to take each year to make that three year image happen?
3. Decide on your goals for this year. Write them down. Now, break up the year into four 90 day (quarterly) segments.
4. For the first 90 days, establish short term goals that will get you on a path to your year end goal.
5. For the next 90 days, establish goals that will continue your path toward your year end goal. Do the same for the remaining 90 day segments.
6. For the next 60 days, follow your plan and break it down further into monthly and weekly goals. When you get to 60 days, take a look at the second quarter goals and see if they are still relevant. If you accomplished more or less than you thought, you can adjust the next quarter as needed.
7. At the end of the month and quarter, look back to see what your goals were and how many of them you accomplished. This will help greatly when you feel frustrated that you're not doing enough.
If you keep following a consistent plan, at the end of the year you'll be pleasantly surprised by just how much you accomplished.
Sarah E. Holmes is a Philadelphia business attorney and strategist that helps start ups and established businesses looking to expand, protect their assets and increase their profits in an approachable, down-to-earth way.