For a small or new business one of the first steps to running a successful business is defining the system you will use to manage your business.
We explore the big picture of your business. We help you define an innovative sustainable business formula (plan) that focuses on a win-win relationship between you and your customers.
The Business Plan
Definition: A written document describing the nature of the business, the sales and marketing strategy, and the financial background, and containing a projected profit and loss statement. A business plan is also a road map that provides directions so a business can plan its future and helps it avoid bumps in the road.
Successfully launching a new business or project or managing the growth of an existing one, requires ongoing careful planning. The business plan, is a prerequisite for gaining access to finance, and also provides the blueprint for successfully creating and running a new or existing venture.
A business plan describes the business’s vision and objectives as well as the strategy and tactics that will be employed to achieve them. A plan may also provide the basis for operational budgets, targets, procedures and management controls.
A Business Plan is recommended for anyone who:
- Is developing a new business, including applications, products, services, etc.
- Is incorporating a business.
- Has an existing business.
- Is a sole proprietor or partner in a business.
- Is evaluating the pros and cons of a new business idea.
- To update or outline departmental goals within a business.
Components Of A Business Plan
The executive summary is an overview of the key points contained in your business plan and is often considered the most important section. It is usually the first section that a potential investor or lender will read, and may be the only section to be read if it is not prepared properly. This important summary should:
- Include highlights from each of the other sections to explain the basics of your business
- Be sufficiently interesting to motivate the reader to continue reading the rest of your business plan
- Be short and concise — no more than two pages long
You will want to describe your business concept, competitive advantage, legal structure (e.g. sole proprietorship, corporation), the market, and your own experience.
Although the executive summary is the first section of the plan, you should write it last.
This section should briefly but clearly describe what your business is all about. This segment should include the following elements:
This section should give readers a very brief overview of your business — where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you’re going in the future. Include:
- A short history of your business — is it a new business venture, are you purchasing an existing business, or are you expanding an existing business?
- The purpose of your business — discuss your vision and the main objectives of your business
- A description of your products and services — what will you offer?
- The legal structure of your business — are you a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a corporation, or a cooperative?
- Your current position — what stage of the business lifecycle is your organization in?
- Your industry — is it growing, stable, or contracting?
- Your achievements — what have you achieved so far?
- Your competitive advantage — what is your advantage over the competition (e.g. innovative products, strong business model, appeal to niche markets)?
- Your competitors — who are they and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
- Your business model — why is it effective?
- Growth timeline — where do you see your business in a year from now? 3 to 5 years down the road?
- Milestones — what objectives have you set for your business and when do you expect to achieve them?
- Goals — what are your short-term (the upcoming year) and long-term (the next 3-5 years) goals?
You should also include the date the business was registered/incorporated, the name of the business, its address, and all contact information.
- Sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or co-operative?Find out which type of business structure is right for your business: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or co-operative.
- BenchmarkingHow does your business measure up to others in your industry? Benchmarking allows you to evaluate your performance and ensure that your business is operating at an optimum level.
- Planning for business growthYou’ve decided it’s time to expand, but there’s plenty to consider before you begin.
- Ways to grow your businessExplore various business activities that could help you expand and grow your business.
Describe the activities you will use to promote and sell your product or service. You should touch on each of the “four Ps” of the marketing mix:
- Product — how does your product or service meet the needs of your target market?
- Price — how much will you charge for your product or service and why?
- Place — how are you going to get your product to your customers?
- Promotion — how will you connect with your target market?
Your marketing strategy should also include information about your budget — how much money have you budgeted for marketing and sales costs?
You may also want to include a profile of your “ideal customers”. You can create profiles based on customer type — consumers, retailers, or wholesalers — or base your segments on demographic information such as age, location, and income level.
Keep in mind that solid market research is the backbone of an effective marketing strategy. You will want to back up your statements with facts — explain how you reached your conclusions and include statistics from reliable sources.
- Marketing basicsBrush up on key marketing concepts, learn how to develop a marketing plan, and assess strategic marketing options for your business.
- Guide to market research and analysisDiscover how market research can help your business succeed and learn how to conduct a variety of market research activities.
Your business plan should outline your current operational requirements as well as your projected requirements for the next 3 to 5 years. Your inventory management and accounting systems should have the ability to produce up-to-date reports.
You can include:
- Day-to-day operations — provide a general description of the day-to-day operations of the business, such as hours of operation, seasonality of business, suppliers and their credit terms, and so on.
- Facility requirements — identify your requirements in terms of size and location. Include any related documents in the appendix of your business plan, such as lease agreements or supplier quotations. Detail any special requirements associated with the facility and include any licensing documentation in your appendix.
- Management information systems — indicate how you plan to control stock, manage accounts, control quality and track your customers.
- Information technology (IT) requirements — identify the IT systems you will be using for your business. As this is a key factor for most businesses, indicate if you are using a consultant or IT support service and outline any planned IT developments.
You may also want to include your operations manual as an appendix to your business plan.
- Day-to-day operationsSuccessfully managing the ups and downs of daily operations is the backbone of your business.
Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis (SWOT)
Conducting a SWOT analysis is an important part of business planning. A properly prepared SWOT analysis shows investors that you have realistically and objectively considered these elements.
Banks and other lenders understand that businesses will encounter difficulties at some point, and want to know how you will deal with these challenges. Remember that overestimating strengths and opportunities or ignoring potential problems will undermine your credibility.
Putting time and effort into conducting a comprehensive SWOT analysis can help you:
- Make sound decisions and future plans
- Anticipate problems and make the necessary changes
- Set aside resources to take advantage of potential opportunities
- Assessing the health of your businessA periodic business health assessment should be a staple of your ongoing business planning cycle.
- Identify opportunities arising from your current businessAre you sitting on a golden opportunity for growth? Your current operations may be more fruitful than you think.
S-Strengths. Strengths are the positive aspects of your business, such as investors, originality, etc.
W-Weaknesses. Weaknesses include things such as funding or lack of skills.
O-Opportunities. Opportunities define how your business can experience positive growth. This could mean the potential to reach a new target market, weak competition, or to easily adjust to new technology.
T-Threats. Threats are perceived negatives to your business idea, such as strong competitors, an oversaturated market, or the inability to grow with changing markets or technological requirements.
Human resources plan
This section addresses how you plan to manage your employees and human resources processes. You should also discuss your short-term and long-term plans for employee recruitment, training, and retention. If appropriate, discuss any advisors, mentors, consultants that offer you support.
You may want to include:
- A brief organizational layout or chart of the business
- Who does what, with a brief job description of each position
- The essential skills required for each position
- Information on your employee training program
- Any other relevant information related to personnel (e.g. gaps in your team, training budget)
Don’t underestimate the importance of this part of your plan. Investors need to know that you and your employees have the necessary balance of skills, drive and experience to enable your business to succeed. It is also advisable to outline any recruitment or training plans, including timelines and costs.
- Business support organizationsSeeking the advice of peers, professional business counsellors and coaches can help you transition from new business owner to experienced entrepreneur.
- Managing employeesLearn how to measure your employees’ performance on the job, how to help them understand what is expected of them, and how to deal with performance problems.
- Develop your management teamLearn the benefits of creating an effective management team, as well as the methods and processes to follow that will help you put this team in place.
Social responsibility strategy
Implementing good environmental and social practices is good business — it can give you a competitive advantage and help foster goodwill toward your business. In this section you should discuss ways in which your business honours ethical values and respects people, your community, and the environment.
You may want to include information about:
- Your environmental policies and initiatives
- Your business’ contributions to your community
- Relevant certifications such as fair-trade certification, organic certification, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification
- Environment and businessFind environmental programs and resources that could help improve your business.
- Corporate social responsibilityIn order to stay competitive in today’s market, you might want to consider where corporate social responsibility fits into your operations.
Effectively using information technology is an important part of managing a business. In this section, you should outline how you plan to use internet technologies to reach customers, manage your business, and reduce costs. You should include information about:
- E-commerce activities (selling your product or service online)
- Website development,SEO
- Hardware and software requirements
- Relationships with external information technology specialists
- Social and Media presence
- Multiple Web Platforms
Keep in mind that implementing e-business strategies can save money — if this is the case for you, you may want to highlight potential savings in this section.
- Using technology in your daily operationsDiscover some of the many ways you can use information communications technologies to your advantage.
Financial forecasts and other Financial information
This section of your business plan essentially turns your plans into numbers. As part of any business plan, you will need to provide financial projections for your business. Your forecasts should run for the next 3 to 5 years. However, the first 12 months’ forecasts should have the most detail, including assumptions both in terms of costs and revenues, so investors can clearly see the thinking behind your numbers.
As you put your plans down on paper, remember the importance of thinking objectively. Analyzing your venture from three points of view — optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic — can give you a solid idea of what to expect as you move forward.
Your financial forecasts should include:
- Cash flow statements — this is a cash balance and monthly cash flow pattern for the first 12-18 months. Include working capital, salaries and sales.
- Profit and loss forecast — this is the level of profit you expect to make, given your projected sales, the costs of providing goods and services, and your overhead costs.
- Sales forecast — this is the amount of money you expect from sales of your product and/or service.
Things to consider:
- How much capital do you need, if you are seeking external funding?
- What security can you offer to lenders?
- How do you plan to repay any borrowings?
- What are your sources of revenue and income?
Your forecasts should cover a range of scenarios, and you should include the contingency plans you’ve developed to offset any risks. You can also review benchmarks and averages for your type of business and discuss your business’ position.
- Financial Performance DataFind out how your business measures up to others within your industry with this benchmarking tool.
Business exit strategy
This section of your business plan addresses your future plans — when the time comes, how will you exit your business? Early planning will give you the opportunity to consider all of your options, including strategies that may take time to implement. For example, if you plan on passing your business on to your children, you’ll need sufficient time to train them and integrate them into your business.
As you prepare your exit strategy, you will want to ask yourself the following questions:
- When do I want to leave my business?
- What do I want to do with my business? Options include selling it, passing it on to a family member, or closing the business and liquidating its assets.
- How will I determine the value of my business?
- How much money will I require to lead a comfortable life after exiting my business?
Once you considered your options and set objectives, it’s time to add an exit strategy to your business plan. Although you may not be exiting your business for some time, a solid strategy will be a roadmap to your future goals.
- Succession planningFind the right strategy for selling your business or handing it over to someone else.
When Do I Need to Update my Business Plan?
Business Plans are basic documents that help to organize your company, from concept to establishment. As your goals and forecast change with time, it is important to update them so that everyone involved can be aware of your new direction.
It’s recommended that you review your Business Plan once a year, or in the following circumstances:
- You change your business direction entirely.
- There is a market change that affects your business.
- New technology becomes available that is relevant to your products or services.
- You gain or lose significant profit.
- You need to expand or downsize your staff.
- You are branching out with a new product or service.
- Your competitors change.
- Or, after any significant changes that affect your previous Business Plan.