Spontaneity is fun. But in the profit-driven world of big business, thorough planning just makes more sense. The Small Business Administration says 70% of start-ups are likely to fail within their first two years, and the reasons are too numerous to mention. One of the most significant factors of failure is a poorly constructed business plan — or no plan at all.
While these documents are central to a business’ success, many entrepreneurs are left scratching their heads, wondering what actually makes a good business plan.
At the core of a business plan
So much has been said about business plans, but they still remain widely misunderstood, often with unwelcome consequences. So, if you’re just getting started, setting clear objectives is always the clearest path to a solid plan.
Keeping the focus
Perhaps the most overarching objective of a business plan is to provide a focus for your business. Write down product information, manpower requirements, financial projections and other details that characterize and set direction.
The Small Business Administration advises checking in with your business plan from time to time, and updating it whenever you make any changes. This can highlight how any adjustments can affect your business as a whole. Overall, the plan should remind you of your original goals for starting the business, any new goals you’ve established along the way and how these two influence your initial vision.
Testing strategies and evaluating performance
To get an accurate picture of strategy, you can compare actual and planned outcomes, and draw insights that help you make more confident business decisions moving forward. If some parts of the strategy have been unsuccessful, you might scrap them or modify them to perform better.
If a new product is currently underperforming, management may decide to improve it or repackage it. With a business plan, different theories can be tested, from financials and marketing to customer relations. Without the trail of a business plan, executives might make decisions based on speculations and assumptions, increasing their chances of failure.
Proper allocation of resources
One of the most important objectives of a business plan is to set the consensus on everything about the business — vision and mission, goals, projections, strategies, processes, target markets, etc. Unless everyone is on the same page, the proper allocation of resources becomes difficult, thus stunting growth.
With a clear business plan, decision-makers can work in harmony without having to consult or check in with one another, saving everyone time while working toward mutual goals.
One very practical objective of a business plan is to build a case for financing. It’s no secret that banks and other lenders ask for this vital document as part of their due diligence prior to granting loans.
With a plan in place, banks are able to explore a business’ goals, ideals and methods of operation. All of these give clues to the company’s comparative financial value. Needless to say, business plans form most of the foundation for loan providers to decide on approving or rejecting an application.
Providing motivation for growth
Starting a business can be intimidating, especially for first-time entrepreneurs. By breaking it down to something concrete, aspiring business owners can get a clearer and more reliable view of how they can materialize their goals.
The tangibility and objective nature of a business plan can help increase your confidence and motivation in growing your company. Yes, you can always discuss your plans verbally during meetings or conversations, but a black and white approach offers a stronger grasp of the direction you want to go and how to get there.
Another objective of a business plan is to entice potential investors. Before people put their money into a company, they’ll naturally want to review plans for performance, and a business plan couldn’t be more perfect for this. The document will provide a crystal clear picture of the business’ current financial performance, anticipated profit streams, marketing research for the target demographic, growth and expansion plans, and so on.
In other words, a business plan gives potential investors a bird’s eye view of what they can expect from a certain company. It’s a good vehicle for you to show off your business and get those investors on board.
Guiding new executives
As a company grows, you’ll probably add executives to your team to help steer your business on the right path. A business plan gives these new decision-makers a wider scope of the business and how their skills can play an important role.
The absence of a business plan can also give rise to wrong expectations, disappointments and frustration, which can ultimately undermine the interests of both sides.
Planning to succeed
Just looking at a clear outline of a business plan with objectives will make it easier for you to see how it plays a pivotal role in success. But, aside from creating this plan, you also need to keep it from being static, letting it evolve with the dynamic needs and demands of the industry. A safe rule of thumb is to update this document annually.
A business plan is a good way to go back in time and appraise the business for what it’s achieved so far, what needs more work and attention and, most importantly, how existing processes can be improved to produce competitive results.