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5 reasons you need a business plan
If you are starting a small business, there is no shortage of advice on the steps you should take: registering your business name, getting a Tax ID, deciding on a business structure and applying for the needed permits and licenses. While these are all very important steps to take, a business plan will be central to how you start, grow and develop your business.
Here are 5 reasons why you need a business plan:
1. It will help you steer your business as you start and grow. Think of a business plan as a GPS to get your business going. A good business plan guides you through each stage of starting and managing your business. You’ll use your business plan like a GPS for how to structure, run, and grow your new business. It’s a way to think through and detail all the key elements of how your business will run.
2. It’s not as hard as you think. A business plan is a written tool about your business that projects 3-5 years ahead and outlines the path your business intends to take to make money and grow revenue. Think of it as a living project for your business, and not as a one-time document. Break it down into mini-plans – one for sales and marketing, one for pricing, one for operations, and so on.
3. It will help you to reach business milestones. A well-thought-out business plan helps you to step back and think objectively about the key elements of your business and informs your decision making as you move forward. It is essential whether you need to secure a business loan or not. Keep in mind that the plan does not have to be like an encyclopedia and does not have to have all the answers.
4. It can help you get funding. Business plans can help you get funding or bring on new business partners. Having one in place will help investors feel confident that they will see a return on their investment. Your business plan is the tool you will use to persuade others that working with you (or investing in your business) is a smart decision.
5. There’s no wrong way to write a business plan. There is no right or wrong way to write a business plan. You can pick a plan format that works best for you. What’s important is that your business plan meets your needs. Most business plans fall into one of two common categories: traditional or lean startup.
Traditional business plans are more common, use a standard structure, and encourage you to go into detail in each section. Traditional plans tend to require more work upfront. Lean startup business plans are less common, but still use a standard structure. They focus on summarizing only the most important points of the key elements of your plan. They can take as little as one hour to make and are typically just one page.
Because knowing where to start can be challenging, the SBA has tools to help make writing a business plan less intimidating and time consuming. The SBA offers a Business Plan Tool that helps simplify the process. The tool consists of eight easy-to-follow steps to help create a well-prepared plan.
To learn more about putting your business plan together, go to the SBA’s online Learning Center and take the self-paced course on How to Write a Business Plan . The course explains the importance of business planning, describes the components of a plan, and provides access to resources and sample plans. You can also take a look at the SBA’s Business Planning Guide for more information and to view business plan templates.
If you want a more hands-on approach, you can get assistance from an SBA resource partner to help complete your business plan. Working with a mentor or counselor from SCORE , a Small Business Development Center or a Women’s Business Center can help with all aspects of starting, growing or expanding your business.
About the author
U.s. small business administration.
The SBA works to ignite change and spark action so small businesses can confidently start, grow, expand, or recover.
Do You Really Need a Business Plan?
The art of storytelling, from net margin to sales.
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- What do you want their response to be?
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1. To raise money for your business
2. To make sound decisions
3. To help you identify any potential weaknesses
4. To communicate your ideas with stakeholders
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The importance of a business plan
Business plans are like road maps: it’s possible to travel without one, but that will only increase the odds of getting lost along the way.
Owners with a business plan see growth 30% faster than those without one, and 71% of the fast-growing companies have business plans . Before we get into the thick of it, let’s define and go over what a business plan actually is.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a 15-20 page document that outlines how you will achieve your business objectives and includes information about your product, marketing strategies, and finances. You should create one when you’re starting a new business and keep updating it as your business grows.
Rather than putting yourself in a position where you may have to stop and ask for directions or even circle back and start over, small business owners often use business plans to help guide them. That’s because they help them see the bigger picture, plan ahead, make important decisions, and improve the overall likelihood of success.
Why is a business plan important?
A well-written business plan is an important tool because it gives entrepreneurs and small business owners, as well as their employees, the ability to lay out their goals and track their progress as their business begins to grow. Business planning should be the first thing done when starting a new business. Business plans are also important for attracting investors so they can determine if your business is on the right path and worth putting money into.
Business plans typically include detailed information that can help improve your business’s chances of success, like:
- A market analysis : gathering information about factors and conditions that affect your industry
- Competitive analysis : evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors
- Customer segmentation : divide your customers into different groups based on specific characteristics to improve your marketing
- Marketing: using your research to advertise your business
- Logistics and operations plans : planning and executing the most efficient production process
- Cash flow projection : being prepared for how much money is going into and out of your business
- An overall path to long-term growth
10 reasons why you need a business plan
I know what you’re thinking: “Do I really need a business plan? It sounds like a lot of work, plus I heard they’re outdated and I like figuring things out as I go...”.
The answer is: yes, you really do need a business plan! As entrepreneur Kevin J. Donaldson said, “Going into business without a business plan is like going on a mountain trek without a map or GPS support—you’ll eventually get lost and starve! Though it may sound tedious and time-consuming, business plans are critical to starting your business and setting yourself up for success.
To outline the importance of business plans and make the process sound less daunting, here are 10 reasons why you need one for your small business.
1. To help you with critical decisions
The primary importance of a business plan is that they help you make better decisions. Entrepreneurship is often an endless exercise in decision making and crisis management. Sitting down and considering all the ramifications of any given decision is a luxury that small businesses can’t always afford. That’s where a business plan comes in.
Building a business plan allows you to determine the answer to some of the most critical business decisions ahead of time.
Creating a robust business plan is a forcing function—you have to sit down and think about major components of your business before you get started, like your marketing strategy and what products you’ll sell. You answer many tough questions before they arise. And thinking deeply about your core strategies can also help you understand how those decisions will impact your broader strategy.
Send invoices, get paid, track expenses, pay your team, and balance your books with our free financial management software.
2. To iron out the kinks
Putting together a business plan requires entrepreneurs to ask themselves a lot of hard questions and take the time to come up with well-researched and insightful answers. Even if the document itself were to disappear as soon as it’s completed, the practice of writing it helps to articulate your vision in realistic terms and better determine if there are any gaps in your strategy.
3. To avoid the big mistakes
Only about half of small businesses are still around to celebrate their fifth birthday . While there are many reasons why small businesses fail, many of the most common are purposefully addressed in business plans.
According to data from CB Insights , some of the most common reasons businesses fail include:
- No market need : No one wants what you’re selling.
- Lack of capital : Cash flow issues or businesses simply run out of money.
- Inadequate team : This underscores the importance of hiring the right people to help you run your business.
- Stiff competition : It’s tough to generate a steady profit when you have a lot of competitors in your space.
- Pricing : Some entrepreneurs price their products or services too high or too low—both scenarios can be a recipe for disaster.
The exercise of creating a business plan can help you avoid these major mistakes. Whether it’s cash flow forecasts or a product-market fit analysis , every piece of a business plan can help spot some of those potentially critical mistakes before they arise. For example, don’t be afraid to scrap an idea you really loved if it turns out there’s no market need. Be honest with yourself!
Get a jumpstart on your business plan by creating your own cash flow projection .
4. To prove the viability of the business
Many businesses are created out of passion, and while passion can be a great motivator, it’s not a great proof point.
Planning out exactly how you’re going to turn that vision into a successful business is perhaps the most important step between concept and reality. Business plans can help you confirm that your grand idea makes sound business sense.
A critical component of your business plan is the market research section. Market research can offer deep insight into your customers, your competitors, and your chosen industry. Not only can it enlighten entrepreneurs who are starting up a new business, but it can also better inform existing businesses on activities like marketing, advertising, and releasing new products or services.
Want to prove there’s a market gap? Here’s how you can get started with market research.
5. To set better objectives and benchmarks
Without a business plan, objectives often become arbitrary, without much rhyme or reason behind them. Having a business plan can help make those benchmarks more intentional and consequential. They can also help keep you accountable to your long-term vision and strategy, and gain insights into how your strategy is (or isn’t) coming together over time.
6. To communicate objectives and benchmarks
Whether you’re managing a team of 100 or a team of two, you can’t always be there to make every decision yourself. Think of the business plan like a substitute teacher, ready to answer questions any time there’s an absence. Let your staff know that when in doubt, they can always consult the business plan to understand the next steps in the event that they can’t get an answer from you directly.
Sharing your business plan with team members also helps ensure that all members are aligned with what you’re doing, why, and share the same understanding of long-term objectives.
7. To provide a guide for service providers
Small businesses typically employ contractors , freelancers, and other professionals to help them with tasks like accounting , marketing, legal assistance, and as consultants. Having a business plan in place allows you to easily share relevant sections with those you rely on to support the organization, while ensuring everyone is on the same page.
8. To secure financing
Did you know you’re 2.5x more likely to get funded if you have a business plan?If you’re planning on pitching to venture capitalists, borrowing from a bank, or are considering selling your company in the future, you’re likely going to need a business plan. After all, anyone that’s interested in putting money into your company is going to want to know it’s in good hands and that it’s viable in the long run. Business plans are the most effective ways of proving that and are typically a requirement for anyone seeking outside financing.
Learn what you need to get a small business loan.
9. To better understand the broader landscape
No business is an island, and while you might have a strong handle on everything happening under your own roof, it’s equally important to understand the market terrain as well. Writing a business plan can go a long way in helping you better understand your competition and the market you’re operating in more broadly, illuminate consumer trends and preferences, potential disruptions and other insights that aren’t always plainly visible.
10. To reduce risk
Entrepreneurship is a risky business, but that risk becomes significantly more manageable once tested against a well-crafted business plan. Drawing up revenue and expense projections, devising logistics and operational plans, and understanding the market and competitive landscape can all help reduce the risk factor from an inherently precarious way to make a living. Having a business plan allows you to leave less up to chance, make better decisions, and enjoy the clearest possible view of the future of your company.
Understanding the importance of a business plan
Now that you have a solid grasp on the “why” behind business plans, you can confidently move forward with creating your own.
Remember that a business plan will grow and evolve along with your business, so it’s an important part of your whole journey—not just the beginning.
Now that you’ve read up on the purpose of a business plan, check out our guide to help you get started.
The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.
Why Business Planning Is Important for Your Business Growth
How often do you include time to plan for your small business in your schedule? If it isn’t something that you do regularly, then let me encourage you to build some time into your schedule for planning.
Many people think that business plans are only useful for new businesses. But, as this article from the Small Business Administration states :
The truth is that business planning offers serious benefits for everybody in business.
In this post, I share the reasons why business planning is important for the success of your business.
I recommend that you start with high-level planning at the beginning of the year and then go into more detailed business planning every 90 days . Taking that time to plan the projects I want to tackle and the areas of my business that I want to grow has been vital to my own success.
Why business planning is important to make your business successful
Dwight D. Eisenhower once wrote in a letter “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” He went on to say that “the planning process demands the thorough exploration of options and contingencies.”
This quote sums up my thoughts about planning. Planning is not about creating a document (the plan), although that’s a helpful benefit.
Business planning is about thinking. The value lies in the process. When you spend time planning, you’ll think about your business in ways that you may not have thought about it before. You’ll look at it from different angles and consider the actions you want to take to make it successful.
Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.
Business planning helps you focus on the right things.
When you go through the planning process, you’ll decide what’s important for your business. This is enormously helpful when you get into the day-to-day grind. With a clear plan, you can focus on what’s most important, rather than spending time trying to figure out what you should be working on.
This is much more efficient than trying to decide what to do every day. When you do that, you generally spend your time putting out fires – dealing with the most urgent things on your plate.
With a plan in place, it becomes easy to work backwards to create efficient and effective weekly and daily to-do lists. Then you can focus on what really needs to get done each day. And that’s how you reach your goals.
Business planning encourages you to think outside the box
If you don’t step back and look at the big picture of your business from time to time, it’s easy to fall into a rut of doing the same things over and over again.
As you plan, you’re going to set goals, right? And generally, those are going to be big goals. Setting a big goal encourages you to think outside the box.
With a big goal in front of you, you start to think of ways to achieve it. You’ll get creative and think of things that didn’t occur to you before.
Business planning puts your subconscious mind to work
So far we’ve talked about the active elements of business planning, but there’s another element at play. Once you’ve started thinking about what you want to achieve and how you are going to do it, your subconscious mind keeps working on the problem.
While you are busy plowing through your to-do list, chauffeuring the kids around, or even sleeping, your subconscious is busy working on your plan.
Think about it. How many times have you awakened in the morning with the answer to a big question? Or had your best ideas come to you in the shower? That’s the power of your subconscious mind. Planning just points it in the right direction.
What is the purpose of business planning?
The purpose of planning is to make decisions about the future of your business. The purpose of a business plan is to document those decisions so that you can refer to them going forward or share them with other stakeholders.
You will establish your strategy
The main purpose of business planning is to establish your strategy. everything else in your plan will support the execution of your strategy., you will set strategic objectives.
Successful businesses set specific business objectives and then track and follow up on their execution. Without objectives, how do you know what you want to have happen?
Business planning allows you to be strategic and work toward the objectives that will be most helpful to your business.
You will allocate resources
While you are planning, you need to allocate resources in a way that will help you achieve your strategic objectives. What services do you already use to keep your business running? Are there new services you need in order to grow your business?
Also, think about assets that you may need to acquire or replace this year. Do you need a new computer or printer? What about software? Or maybe photographic equipment or a new cell phone.
And of course, as a solopreneur, your most precious resource is your time. Where will you spend it? Do you need to hire help?
The business planning process can help you clarify your thoughts about how best to allocate your resources.
You will decide what NOT to do
Just as important as choosing what objectives to pursue is deciding what NOT to do. You can’t do everything. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. You have to decide what to let go of. Making realistic decisions about what you will and won’t do is an integral part of the business planning process.
What should you include when making a business plan?
There are certain elements that you’ll want to include in your business plan. Keep in mind, however, that this is your plan. If something doesn’t make sense for you and your business, it’s okay to skip it.
Your vision & mission for your business
Your vision and mission set a strong foundation for your business. Vision and mission express why you do what you do. They help you attract the right kinds of clients, keep your business focused on the right path, and get you through the tough times.
Do you have a vision statement and/or a mission statement? Vision and mission statements are a great way to start your business plan. They’ll help you keep your eye on the big picture.
How is your business monetized?
How is your business monetized? Do you sell physical products? Digital downloads or e-courses? Are you a service provider?
Which revenue streams are working well? Are there any that you want to drop? What about new revenue streams that you want to add to the mix?
A competitive analysis of your market
Do some basic market research. Figure out who your major competitors are, who they sell to, and what they offer.
It’s always helpful to know what the competition is up to.
And next year, when you do your annual planning, you’ll be able to make a comparison. Have your competitors changed? Who are the new players? What are the hot new products and services?
A quick SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis sounds technical, but it doesn’t have to be. Grab a big piece of paper or a white board and divide it into four sections. Then brainstorm your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and any threats your business is facing.
A SWOT analysis will make your business strategy stronger because it will ensure that you’ve thought about both internal (strengths and weaknesses) and external (opportunities and threats) factors.
What are your high-level goals?
For annual goals and objectives, it’s best to stay very high-level. This is not the place to go into too much detail, because priorities and activities will likely change throughout the year.
Include a few high-level, “must-do” goals in your business plan. These will likely include your revenue goal and a few other specific targets that you want to achieve.
For more information on setting goals, check out Ultimate Guide for How to Achieve Goals .
What is your marketing strategy?
Marketing is an important part of your annual business plan. How are you going to market and promote your business? Do you have a social media strategy ? Will you use paid advertising? Or public relations?
Include some information on your target market or your ideal customer. It can also be helpful to decide if your primary focus will be on acquiring new customers or on selling more to your existing customers.
Depending on your business, you may want to have a separate, more detailed marketing strategy document. If so, then you can simply include an executive summary of your marketing plan in your overall business plan.
Action Items to achieve your goals
Your business plan should include the specific actions that you will take. This is when you start getting into the nitty-gritty details. What are you going to do? By when?
For a deeper dive into what you should include, check out this post on how to create a strategic business plan .
Your business plan is a living document
At this point, I hope you see the importance of a business plan. Keep in mind that your business plan is a living document. It’s not written in stone. You can change it. Remember President Eisenhower’s remarks above. The plan itself isn’t the end-goal. The strategic planning process is where the true benefit lies.
If you are ready to create your own strategic plan, then be sure to download this free business planning workbook:
Want to remember this? Save Why Business Planning Is Important for Your Business Growth to your favorite Pinterest Board.
More content on strategy & planning that you may find helpful:
- How to Create a Results-Focused Strategic Business Plan
- How to See the Big Picture in Your Small Business
- Be a Goal Getter
- Why Is It Important to Have Vision and Mission Statements?
- How to Create Your 90-Day Action Plan
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Table of Contents
Every year, thousands of new businesses see the light of the day. One look at the World Bank's Entrepreneurship Survey and database shows the mind-boggling rate of new business registrations. However, sadly, only a tiny percentage of them have a chance of survival.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, about 50% in their fifth year.
Research from the University of Tennessee found that 44% of businesses fail within the first three years. Among those that operate within specific sectors, like information (which includes most tech firms), 63% shut shop within three years.
Several other statistics expose the abysmal rates of business failure. But why are so many businesses bound to fail? Most studies mention "lack of business planning" as one of the reasons.
This isn’t surprising at all.
Running a business without a plan is like riding a motorcycle up a craggy cliff blindfolded. Yet, way too many firms ( a whopping 67%) don't have a formal business plan in place.
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It doesn't matter if you're a startup with a great idea or a business with an excellent product. You can only go so far without a roadmap — a business plan. Only, a business plan is so much more than just a roadmap. A solid plan allows a business to weather market challenges and pivot quickly in the face of crisis, like the one global businesses are struggling with right now, in the post-pandemic world.
But before you can go ahead and develop a great business plan, you need to know the basics. In this article, we'll discuss the fundamentals of business planning to help you plan effectively for 2021.
Now before we begin with the details of business planning, let us understand what it is.
What Is a Business Plan?
No two businesses have an identical business plan, even if they operate within the same industry. So one business plan can look entirely different from another one. Still, for the sake of simplicity, a business plan can be defined as a guide for a company to operate and achieve its goals.
More specifically, it's a document in writing that outlines the goals, objectives, and purpose of a business while laying out the blueprint for its day-to-day operations and key functions such as marketing, finance, and expansion.
A good business plan can be a game-changer for startups that are looking to raise funds to grow and scale. It convinces prospective investors that the venture will be profitable and provides a realistic outlook on how much profit is on the cards and by when it will be attained.
However, it's not only new businesses that greatly benefit from a business plan. Well-established companies and large conglomerates also need to tweak their business plans to adapt to new business environments and unpredictable market changes.
Before getting into learning more about business planning, let us learn the advantages of having one.
The Advantages of Having a Business Plan
Since a detailed business plan offers a birds-eye view of the entire framework of an establishment, it has several benefits that make it an important part of any organization. Here are few ways a business plan can offer significant competitive edge.
- Sets objectives and benchmarks: Proper planning helps a business set realistic objectives and assign stipulated time for those goals to be met. This results in long-term profitability. It also lets a company set benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) necessary to reach its goals.
- Maximizes resource allocation: A good business plan helps to effectively organize and allocate the company’s resources. It provides an understanding of the result of actions, such as, opening new offices, recruiting fresh staff, change in production, and so on. It also helps the business estimate the financial impact of such actions.
- Enhances viability: A plan greatly contributes towards turning concepts into reality. Though business plans vary from company to company, the blueprints of successful companies often serve as an excellent guide for nascent-stage start-ups and new entrepreneurs. It also helps existing firms to market, advertise, and promote new products and services into the market.
- Aids in decision making: Running a business involves a lot of decision making: where to pitch, where to locate, what to sell, what to charge — the list goes on. A well thought-out business plan provides an organization the ability to anticipate the curveballs that the future could throw at them. It allows them to come up with answers and solutions to these issues well in advance.
- Fix past mistakes: When businesses create plans keeping in mind the flaws and failures of the past and what worked for them and what didn’t, it can help them save time, money, and resources. Such plans that reflects the lessons learnt from the past offers businesses an opportunity to avoid future pitfalls.
- Attracts investors: A business plan gives investors an in-depth idea about the objectives, structure, and validity of a firm. It helps to secure their confidence and encourages them to invest.
Now let's look at the various types involved in business planning.
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The Types of Business Plans
Business plans are formulated according to the needs of a business. It can be a simple one-page document or an elaborate 40-page affair, or anything in between. While there’s no rule set in stone as to what exactly a business plan can or can’t contain, there are a few common types of business plan that nearly all businesses in existence use.
Here’s an overview of a few fundamental types of business plans.
- Start-up plan: As the name suggests, this is a documentation of the plans, structure, and objections of a new business establishments. It describes the products and services that are to be produced by the firm, the staff management, and market analysis of their production. Often, a detailed finance spreadsheet is also attached to this document for investors to determine the viability of the new business set-up.
- Feasibility plan: A feasibility plan evaluates the prospective customers of the products or services that are to be produced by a company. It also estimates the possibility of a profit or a loss of a venture. It helps to forecast how well a product will sell at the market, the duration it will require to yield results, and the profit margin that it will secure on investments.
- Expansion Plan: This kind of plan is primarily framed when a company decided to expand in terms of production or structure. It lays down the fundamental steps and guidelines with regards to internal or external growth. It helps the firm to analyze the activities like resource allocation for increased production, financial investments, employment of extra staff, and much more.
- Operations Plan: An operational plan is also called an annual plan. This details the day-to-day activities and strategies that a business needs to follow in order to materialize its targets. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of the managing body, the various departments, and the company’s employees for the holistic success of the firm.
- Strategic Plan: This document caters to the internal strategies of the company and is a part of the foundational grounds of the establishments. It can be accurately drafted with the help of a SWOT analysis through which the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can be categorized and evaluated so that to develop means for optimizing profits.
The Key Elements of a Business Plan
There is some preliminary work that’s required before you actually sit down to write a plan for your business. Knowing what goes into a business plan is one of them.
Here are the key elements of a good business plan:
- Executive Summary: An executive summary gives a clear picture of the strategies and goals of your business right at the outset. Though its value is often understated, it can be extremely helpful in creating the readers’ first impression of your business. As such, it could define the opinions of customers and investors from the get-go.
- Business Description: A thorough business description removes room for any ambiguity from your processes. An excellent business description will explain the size and structure of the firm as well as its position in the market. It also describes the kind of products and services that the company offers. It even states as to whether the company is old and established or new and aspiring. Most importantly, it highlights the USP of the products or services as compared to your competitors in the market.
- Market Analysis: A systematic market analysis helps to determine the current position of a business and analyzes its scope for future expansions. This can help in evaluating investments, promotions, marketing, and distribution of products. In-depth market understanding also helps a business combat competition and make plans for long-term success.
- Operations and Management: Much like a statement of purpose, this allows an enterprise to explain its uniqueness to its readers and customers. It showcases the ways in which the firm can deliver greater and superior products at cheaper rates and in relatively less time.
- Financial Plan: This is the most important element of a business plan and is primarily addressed to investors and sponsors. It requires a firm to reveal its financial policies and market analysis. At times, a 5-year financial report is also required to be included to show past performances and profits. The financial plan draws out the current business strategies, future projections, and the total estimated worth of the firm.
Best Business Plan Software
The importance of business planning is it simplifies the planning of your company's finances to present this information to a bank or investors. Here are the best business plan software providers available right now:
- Business Sorter
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Common Challenges of Writing a Business Plan
The importance of business planning cannot be emphasized enough, but it can be challenging to write a business plan. Here are a few issues to consider before you start your business planning:
- Create a business plan to determine your company's direction, obtain financing, and attract investors.
- Identifying financial, demographic, and achievable goals is a common challenge when writing a business plan.
- Some entrepreneurs struggle to write a business plan that is concise, interesting, and informative enough to demonstrate the viability of their business idea.
- You can streamline your business planning process by conducting research, speaking with experts and peers, and working with a business consultant.
Become an Expert Business Planner
Whether you’re running your own business or in-charge of ensuring strategic performance and growth for your employer or clients, knowing the ins and outs of business planning can set you up for success.
Be it the launch of a new and exciting product or an expansion of operations, business planning is the necessity of all large and small companies. Which is why the need for professionals with superior business planning skills will never die out. In fact, their demand is on the rise with global firms putting emphasis on business analysis and planning to cope with cut-throat competition and market uncertainties.
While some are natural-born planners, most people have to work to develop this important skill. Plus, business planning requires you to understand the fundamentals of business management and be familiar with business analysis techniques . It also requires you to have a working knowledge of data visualization, project management, and monitoring tools commonly used by businesses today.
Simpliearn’s Post Graduate Program in Business Analysis will help you develop and hone the required skills to become an extraordinary business planner. This comprehensive training program combined with the latest tools and methods can pave the way for you and equip you with the skills and the know-how to tackle any real-world challenges that may arise. Completing this industry-recognized course also earns you a valued certification as tangible proof of your talent.
What Is Meant by Business Planning?
Business planning is developing a company's mission or goals and defining the strategies you will use to achieve those goals or tasks. The process can be extensive, encompassing all aspects of the operation, or it can be concrete, focusing on specific functions within the overall corporate structure.
What Are the 4 Types of Business Plans?
The following are the four types of business plans:
This type of planning typically describes the company's day-to-day operations. Single-use plans are developed for events and activities that occur only once (such as a single marketing campaign). Ongoing plans include problem-solving policies, rules for specific regulations, and procedures for a step-by-step process for achieving particular goals.
Strategic plans are all about why things must occur. A high-level overview of the entire business is included in strategic planning. It is the organization's foundation and will dictate long-term decisions.
Tactical plans are about what will happen. Strategic planning is aided by tactical planning. It outlines the tactics the organization intends to employ to achieve the goals outlined in the strategic plan.
When something unexpected occurs or something needs to be changed, contingency plans are created. In situations where a change is required, contingency planning can be beneficial.
What Are the 7 Steps of a Business Plan?
The following are the seven steps required for a business plan:
If your company is to run a viable business plan and attract investors, your information must be of the highest quality.
Have a Goal
The goal must be unambiguous. You will waste your time if you don't know why you're writing a business plan. Knowing also implies having a target audience for when the plan is expected to get completed.
Create a Company Profile
Some refer to it as a company profile, while others refer to it as a snapshot. It's designed to be mentally quick and digestible because it needs to stick in the reader's mind quickly since more information is provided later in the plan.
Describe the Company in Detail
Explain the company's current situation, both good and bad. Details should also include patents, licenses, copyrights, and unique strengths that no one else has.
Create a marketing plan ahead of time.
A strategic marketing plan is required because it outlines how your product or service will be communicated, delivered, and sold to customers.
Be Willing to Change Your Plan for the Sake of Your Audience
Another standard error is that people only write one business plan. Startups have several versions, just as candidates have numerous resumes for various potential employers.
Incorporate Your Motivation
Your motivation must be a compelling reason for people to believe your company will succeed in all circumstances. A mission should drive a business, not just selling, to make money. That mission is defined by your motivation as specified in your business plan.
What Are the Basic Steps in Business Planning?
These are the basic steps in business planning:
Summary and Objectives
Briefly describe your company, its objectives, and your plan to keep it running.
Services and Products
Add specifics to your detailed description of the product or service you intend to offer. Where, why, and how much you plan to sell your product or service and any special offers.
Conduct research on your industry and the ideal customers to whom you want to sell. Identify the issues you want to solve for your customers.
Operations are the process of running your business, including the people, skills, and experience required to make it successful.
How are you going to reach your target audience? How you intend to sell to them may include positioning, pricing, promotion, and distribution.
Consider funding costs, operating expenses, and projected income. Include your financial objectives and a breakdown of what it takes to make your company profitable. With proper business planning through the help of support, system, and mentorship, it is easy to start a business.
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What is a Business Plan and Why is it Important?
What is a business plan.
Whether you’re starting a small business or exploring ways to expand an existing one, a business plan is an important tool to help guide your decisions. Think of it as a roadmap to success, providing greater clarity on all aspects of your business, from marketing and finance to operations and product/service details.
While some owners may be tempted to jump directly into startup mode, writing a business plan is a crucial first step for budding entrepreneurs to check the viability of a business before investing too much time or money. The purpose of a business plan is to help articulate a strategy for starting your business. It also provides insight on steps to be taken, resources required for achieving your business goals and a timeline of anticipated results.
In fact, businesses that plan grow 30% faster than those that don’t. 1
For existing small businesses, a business plan should be updated annually as a way to guide growth and navigate the expansion into new markets.
Studies show that nearly 71% of the fastest-growing businesses have business plans, indicating that even existing businesses can benefit from updating their plans. 2
Your plan should include explicit objectives for hiring new employees , market analysis, financial projections, and potential investors. The objectives should indicate how they’ll help your business prosper and grow.
Building an asset management business plan
Committing resources to capital improvements and new assets such as computers, software or cars/trucks is never an easy decision for budget-conscious small business owners. But a business plan can bring clarity to the process of whether to buy or lease and help determine the optimal amount allocated to those assets. A good business plan can also help you decide if it’s feasible to take on additional office, retail or work space.
Creating a marketing strategy
Marketing and market potential are important aspects of a plan for aspiring small businesses.
Getting your business in front of customers on a consistent basis is one of the keys to ensuring your business not only stays afloat but also thrives.
Marketing strategies can be simple, but before you decide on how you will get the word out, getting clear on your target audience and why your business solves their problem can make sticking to your marketing plan easier.
Knowing your unique market positioning can help you determine your messaging. Your marketing strategy should include who your target audience is, the platforms or methods you will connect with them on, and a measurement framework to determine if your efforts are working.
Take entrepreneur Scott Sultzer, who opened Sandwich Joint restaurant in downtown Los Angeles in 2009. “I included the potential marketing demographic of all those who lived in a certain area of the city,” he said of his marketing strategy. “My goal was to capture a certain percentage of all those people who lived and worked nearby.” 4
Created primarily as a marketing tool, Sulzer’s 10-page plan included such topics as target market breakdown, marketing strategy and market penetration. “My business plan was mostly about market projections,” he said. “How are we going to get those people that lead to an increase in our daily sales? And how are we going to reach them to let them know we’re here?” 4
Depending on your business, it’s important to have both brick-and-mortar marketing strategies as well as a plan for marketing your business online .
Seeking investment for your business
In addition to providing a roadmap for progress and a marketing plan , your business plan could also be important in securing funding .
Whether you’re seeking a credit line from a bank or an influx of capital from investors, a business plan that answers questions about profitability and revenue generation can make the difference between whether someone decides to invest – or how much they might choose to invest.
In fact, a study showed that businesses with a plan were more likely to receive formal financial support, such as funding, than businesses without one. 3
Hiring the right talent
A business plan may also be needed to retain other professional services as well, such as attorneys, landlords, consultants or accountants. Sulzer used his business plan to secure a lease.
“I had to have a viable document that they could trust,” said Sulzer, who leased from one of the largest landowners in downtown Los Angeles. 4
“With a corporate landlord, they wouldn’t deal with me unless I had a business plan. I had to submit all my information and a plan that presented what I wanted to do, with financial breakdowns and percentages, demographics, and how I was going to get customers.” 4
For a small business to succeed, attracting talented workers and partners is of vital importance. A part of a business plan for hiring employees is to help bring in the right talent, from the executive level to skilled staff, by showing them the direction and growth potential of the business. It can also help secure vendor accounts, especially with exclusive suppliers.
Setting business plan objectives for management
Finally, a business plan can be important in providing structure and management objectives to a small business. It can become a reference tool to keep management on track with sales targets and operational milestones. When used properly and consulted regularly, it can help you measure and manage what you’re working so hard to create.
Ready to take the next step? Learn how to write a business plan .
Don’t forget to consider insurance coverage in your business plan. When the unexpected happens, you want to make sure your small business is covered. Customized insurance solutions are crucial to protecting and keeping your operation going.
Find out how small business insurance from Nationwide can help you build and protect your business whether you are just starting up or already established.
1 https://www.effectuation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/The-Multiple-Effects-of-Business-Planning-onNew-Venture-Performance-1.pdf , Accessed October 2021. 2 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/0447-2778.00006 , Accessed October 2021. 3 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13504851.2014.967377 , Accessed October 2021. 4 Nationwide Interview with Scott Sultzer, 2016.
Disclaimer: The information included is designed for informational purposes only. It is not legal, tax, financial or any other sort of advice, nor is it a substitute for such advice. The information may not apply to your specific situation. We have tried to make sure the information is accurate, but it could be outdated or even inaccurate in parts. It is the reader’s responsibility to comply with any applicable local, state, or federal regulations. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, its affiliates and their employees make no warranties about the information nor guarantee of results, and they assume no liability in connection with the information provided. Nationwide, Nationwide is on your side, and the Nationwide N and Eagle are services marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2021 Nationwide.
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20 Reasons Why You Need a Business Plan in 2023
- Written by Dave Lavinsky
What is the purpose of a business plan and why are business plans so important? Below are our top 20 reasons why you need a business plan.
2. To establish business milestones. The business plan should clearly lay out the long-term milestones that are most important to the success of your business. To paraphrase Guy Kawasaki, a milestone is something significant enough to come home and tell your spouse about (without boring him or her to death). Would you tell your spouse that you tweaked the company brochure? Probably not. But you’d certainly share the news that you launched your new website or reached $1M in annual revenues.
3. To better understand your competition. Creating the business plan forces you to analyze the competition. All companies have competition in the form of either direct or indirect competitors, and it is critical to understand your company’s competitive advantages. And if you don’t currently have competitive advantages, to figure out what you must do to gain them.
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4. To better understand your customer. Why do they buy when they buy? Why don’t they when they don’t? An in-depth customer analysis is essential to an effective business plan and to a successful business. Understanding your customers will not only allow you to create better products and services for them, but will allow you to more cost-effectively reach them via advertising and promotions.
5. To enunciate previously unstated assumptions. The process of actually writing the business plan helps to bring previously “hidden” assumptions to the foreground. By writing them down and assessing them, you can test them and analyze their validity. For example, you might have assumed that local retailers would carry your product; in your business plan, you could assess the results of the scenario in which this didn’t occur.
6. To assess the feasibility of your venture. How good is this opportunity? The business plan process involves researching your target market, as well as the competitive landscape, and serves as a feasibility study for the success of your venture. In some cases, the result of your planning will be to table the venture. And it might be to go forward with a different venture that may have a better chance of success.
7. To document your revenue model. How exactly will your business make money? This is a critical question to answer in writing, for yourself and your investors. Documenting the revenue model helps to address challenges and assumptions associated with the model. And upon reading your plan, others may suggest additional revenue streams to consider.
8. To determine your financial needs. Does your business need to raise capital? How much? One of the purposes of a business plan is to help you to determine exactly how much capital you need and what you will use it for. This process is essential for raising capital for business and for effectively employing the capital. It will also enable you to plan ahead, particularly if you need to raise additional funding in the future.
9. To attract investors. A formal business plan is the basis for financing proposals. The business plan answers investors’ questions such as: Is there a need for this product/service? What are the financial projections? What is the company’s exit strategy? While investors will generally want to meet you in person before writing you a check, in nearly all cases, they will also thoroughly review your business plan.
10. To reduce the risk of pursuing the wrong opportunity. The process of creating the business plan helps to minimize opportunity costs. Writing the business plan helps you assess the attractiveness of this particular opportunity, versus other opportunities. So you make the best decisions.
11. To force you to research and really know your market. What are the most important trends in your industry? What are the greatest threats to your industry? Is the market growing or shrinking? What is the size of the target market for your product/service? Creating the business plan will help you to gain a wider, deeper, and more nuanced understanding of your marketplace. And it will allow you to use this knowledge to make decisions to improve your company’s success.
12. To attract employees and a management team. To attract and retain top quality talent, a business plan is necessary. The business plan inspires employees and management that the idea is sound and that the business is poised to achieve its strategic goals. Importantly, as you grow your company, your employees and not you will do most of the work. So getting them aligned and motivated will be key to your success.
13. To plot your course and focus your efforts. The business plan provides a roadmap from which to operate, and to look to for direction in times of doubt. Without a business plan, you may shift your short-term strategies constantly without a view to your long-term milestones. You wouldn’t go on a long driving trip without a map; think of your business plan as your map.
14. To attract partners. Partners also want to see a business plan, in order to determine whether it is worth partnering with your business. Establishing partnerships often requires time and capital, and companies will be more likely to partner with your venture if they can read a detailed explanation of your company.
15. To position your brand. Creating the business plan helps to define your company’s role in the marketplace. This definition allows you to succinctly describe the business and position the brand to customers, investors, and partners. With the industry, customer and competitive insight you gain during the business planning process, you can best determine how to position your brand.
16. To judge the success of your business. A formal business plan allows you to compare actual operational results versus the business plan itself. In this way, it allows you to clearly see whether you have achieved your strategic, financing, and operational goals (and why you have or have not).
17. To reposition your business to deal with changing conditions. For example, during difficult economic conditions, if your current sales and operational models aren’t working, you can rewrite your business plan to define, try, and validate new ideas and strategies.
18. To document your marketing plan . How are you going to reach your customers? How will you retain them? What is your advertising budget? What price will you charge? A well-documented marketing plan is essential to the growth of a business. And the marketing strategies and tactics you use will evolve each year, so revisiting your marketing plan at least annually is critical.
19. To understand and forecast your company’s staffing needs. After completing your business plan, you will not be surprised when you are suddenly short-handed. Rather, your business plan provides a roadmap for your staffing needs, and thus helps to ensure smoother expansion. Importantly your plan can not only help you understand your staffing needs, but ensure your timing is right as it takes time to recruit and train great employees.
20. To uncover new opportunities. Through the process of brainstorming, white-boarding and creative interviewing, you will likely see your business in a different light. As a result, you will often come up with new ideas for marketing your product/service and running your business. It’s coming up with these ideas and executing on them which is often the difference between a business that fails or just survives and one that thrives.
What is a Business Plan?
A business plan is a document that details your business concept and strategy for growth.
What is the Purpose of a Business Plan?
A business plan helps guide your company's efforts and, if applicable, gives investors and lenders the information they need to decide whether or not to fund your company. A business plan template helps you to most easily complete your plan.
Why Do You Need a Business Plan?
A business plan provides details about your company, competition, customers and industry so that you make the best possible decisions to grow your company.
What is the Importance of a Business Plan?
The 3 most important purposes of a business plan are 1) to create an effective strategy for growth, 2) to determine your future financial needs, and 3) to attract investors (including angel investors and VC funding ) and lenders.
Why is a Business Plan Important to an Entrepreneur?
Business plans help entrepreneurs take their visions and turn them into tangible action plans for success.
Since 1999, Growthink’s business plan experts have assisted more than 4,000 clients in launching and growing their businesses, and raising more than $2.5 billion in growth financing.
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Prepare a business plan for growth
Planning is key to any business throughout its existence. Every successful business regularly reviews its business plan to ensure it continues to meet its needs. It's sensible to review current performance on a regular basis and identify the most likely strategies for growth.
Once you've reviewed your progress and identified the key growth areas that you want to target, it's time to revisit your business plan and make it a road map to the next stages for your business.
This guide will show how you can turn your business plan from a static document into a dynamic template that will help your business both survive and thrive.
The importance of ongoing business planning
What your business plan should include, drawing up a more sophisticated business plan, plan and allocate resources effectively, use targets to implement your business plan, when and how to review your business plan.
Most potential investors will want to see a business plan before they consider funding your business. Although many businesses are tempted to use their business plans solely for this purpose, a good plan should set the course of a business over its lifespan.
A business plan plays a key role in allocating resources throughout a business. It is a tool that can help you attract new funds or that you can use as a strategy document. A good business plan reveals how you would use the bank loan or investment you are asking for.
Ongoing business planning means that you can monitor whether you are achieving your business objectives . A business plan can be used as a tool to identify where you are now and in which direction you wish your business to grow. A business plan will also ensure that you meet certain key targets and manage business priorities.
You can maximise your chances of success by adopting a continuous and regular business planning cycle that keeps the plan up-to-date. This should include regular business planning meetings which involve key people from the business.
To find out more, see our guides on how to review your business performance and how to assess your options for growth .
If you regularly assess your performance against the plans and targets you have set, you are more likely to meet your objectives. It can also signpost where and why you're going astray. Many businesses choose to assess progress every three or six months.
The assessment will also help you in discussions with banks, investors and even potential buyers of your business. Regular review is a good vehicle for showing direction and commitment to employees, customers and suppliers.
Defining your business' purpose in your business plan keeps you focused, inspires your employees and attracts customers.
Your business plan should include a summary of what your business does, how it has developed and where you want it to go. In particular, it should cover your strategy for improving your existing sales and processes to achieve the growth you desire.
You also need to make it clear what timeframe the business plan covers - this will typically be for the next 12 to 24 months.
The plan needs to include:
- The marketing aims and objectives , for example how many new customers you want to gain and the anticipated size of your customer base at the end of the period. To find out about marketing strategy, see our guide on how to create your marketing strategy .
- Operational information such as where your business is based, who your suppliers are and the premises and equipment needed.
- Financial information , including profit and loss forecasts, cash flow forecasts, sales forecasts and audited accounts.
- A summary of the business objectives, including targets and dates.
- If yours is an owner-managed business, you may wish to include an exit plan . This includes planning the timing of your departure and the circumstances, e.g. family succession, sale of the business, floating your business or closing it down.
If you intend to present your business plan to an external audience such as investors or banks, you will also need to include:
- your aims and objectives for each area of the business
- details of the history of the business, including financial records from the last three years - if this isn't possible, provide details about trading to date
- the skills and qualifications of the management involved in your business
- information about the product or service, its distinctiveness and where it fits into the marketplace
If your business has grown to encompass a series of departments or divisions, each with its own targets and objectives, you may need to draw up a more sophisticated business plan.
The individual business plans of the departments and separate business units will need to be integrated into a single strategy document for the entire organisation.
This can be a complex exercise but it's vital if each business unit is to tread a consistent path and not conflict with the overall strategy.
This is not just an issue for large enterprises - many small firms consist of separate business units pursuing different strategies.
To draw up a business plan that marries all the separate units of an organisation requires a degree of co-ordination. It may seem obvious, but make sure all departments are using the same planning template.
Objectives for individual departments
It's important for each department to feel that they are a stakeholder in the plan. Typically, each department head will draft the unit's business plan and then agree on its final form in conjunction with other departments.
Each unit's budgets and priorities must be set so that they fit in with those of the entire organisation. Generally, individual unit plans are required to be more specific and precisely defined than the overall business plan. It's important that the objectives set for business units are realistic and deliverable. However complex it turns out to be, the individual business unit plan needs to be easily understood by the people whose job it is to make it work. They also need to be clear on how their plan fits in with that of the wider organisation.
The business plan plays a key role in allocating resources throughout a business so that the objectives set in the plan can be met.
Once you've reviewed your progress to date and identified your strategy for growth, your existing business plan may look dated and may no longer reflect your business' position and future direction.
When you are reviewing your business plan to cover the next stages, it's important to be clear on how you will allocate your resources to make your strategy work.
For example, if a particular business unit or department has been given a target, the business plan should allocate sufficient resources to achieve it. These resources may already be available within the business or may be generated by future activity.
In practice this could mean recruiting more office staff, spending more on marketing or buying more supplies or equipment. You may want to provide funds through current cash flow, generating more profit or seeking external funding. In general, it is always better to fund future growth through revenue generation.
However, you should do some precise budgeting to decide on the right level of resourcing for a particular unit or department. It's important that resources are prioritised, so that areas of a business which are key to delivering the overall aims and objectives are adequately funded. If funding isn't available this may involve making cutbacks in other areas.
A successful business plan should incorporate a set of targets and objectives.
While the overall plan may set strategic goals, these are unlikely to be achieved unless you use SMART objectives or targets, i.e. S pecific, M easurable, A chievable, R ealistic and T imely.
Targets help everyone within a business understand what they need to achieve and when they need to achieve it.
You can monitor the performance of employees, teams or a new product or service by using appropriate performance indicators . These can be:
- sales or profit figures over a given period
- milestones in new product development
- productivity benchmarks for individual team members
- market-share statistics
Targets make it clearer for individual employees to see where they fit within an organisation and what they need to do to help the business meet its objectives. Setting clear objectives and targets and closely monitoring their delivery can make the development of your business more effective. Targets and objectives should also form a key part of employee appraisals, as a means of objectively addressing individuals' progress.
Once you've drawn up your new business plan and put it into practice, it needs to be continually monitored to make sure the objectives are being achieved. This review process should follow an assessment of your progress to date and an analysis of the most promising ways to develop your business. To find out more about these stages see our guides on how to review your business performance and how to assess your options for growth .
This process is called the business plan cycle . In some businesses, the cycle may be a continuous process with the plan being regularly updated and monitored. For most businesses, an annual plan - broken down into four quarterly operating plans - is sufficient. However, if a business is heavily sales driven, it can make more sense to have a monthly operating plan, supplemented where necessary with weekly targets and reviews.
It's important to keep in mind that major events in your business' target marketplace (e.g. competitor consolidation, acquisition of a major customer) or in the broader environment (e.g. new legislation) should trigger a review of your strategic objectives.
Regardless of whether or not there are fixed time intervals in your business plan, it must be part of a rolling process, with regular assessment of performance against the plan and agreement of a revised forecast if necessary.
Original document, Prepare a business plan for growth , © Crown copyright 2009 Source: Business Link UK (now GOV.UK/Business ) Adapted for Québec by Info entrepreneurs
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