Small Business Planning
How a small business plan will help you succeed
Small business planning is important from the very start, but it will also serve as an invaluable reference for the future. A comprehensive plan will bring to light many faults, opportunities and challenges, which can help you to rearrange elements and make educated decisions. To get the most out of your small business plan, you'll need to cover all your bases; if you take the time to compose a thorough plan, you'll have a much better chance of staying on track in the future.
The Small Business Planning Process
As the business planning progresses, so should the detail—by the end, you will have ironed out as many issues as possible. Specifically, there are seven sections to cover in your plan, including an outline of the products or services, expectations for future growth and financial needs:
- Executive summary. Just like any other professional document, you'll want an appropriate introduction. In this case, aim for one to two pages that outline your business concept, key objectives, your strategies for success, financial projections and your product or service.
- Company summary. This section should be a bit more detailed, discussing the history of your business, your vision and the ownership structure.
- Product description. Use this part of the business plan to expand on your product or service, making sure to address all of the features, benefits and competitive advantages it will bring.
- Industry overview. Moving from your specific product to the wider market, discuss the characteristics of your industry, your key audience and how you'll draw your customers. The idea is to demonstrate how your business will fare in the competitive arena.
- Marketing strategy. Describe your target market, your competition and promotional programs. A small business marketing plan can be created simultaneously to keep as a reference as your business proceeds and expands.
- Management summary. This is where you'll discuss your management team and human resources plan, including an outline of your company's daily operations.
- Financial plan. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you'll need to summarize financial statements, income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements. Small business financial planning requires a realistic assessment of your present and future needs.
Composing Your Small Business Plan
Not all small businesses are the same, and you won't find one business plan design that will apply to each and every company. Some will be more complex, address more areas or assign more detail than others, so begin with a good understanding of the nature and demands of your business. Once you have a rough design and a thorough idea of what you need to include, consult a small business plan sample that outlines a similar type of business to get started.