Each year, National Write a Business Plan Month is staged in December. This monthlong observance is held to highlight the importance of having a business plan and to encourage those looking to start their own business to take this crucial step.
Why all the fuss? The business plan is a critical asset for every upstart business. And for those thinking about launching one, a detailed, well-researched strategy can serve as a way to think through and outline the planned venture, an invaluable tool when seeking funding, and a road map to success when the business launch finally takes place.
Common components of a business plan
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers a range of helpful resources for putting together a business plan, a formal written document with elements typically including:
- Executive summary: a short rundown of what the company will do and why it is likely to succeed, along with brief details on the company’s mission, offerings, anticipated workforce composition and location.
- Company description: includes more detailed information about the company, the specific needs it will meet and problems it will solve for customers, and what will set it apart from its competitors.
- Market analysis: a look at the state of the business’s current industry, the marketplace, and the existing competition.
- Organization and management details offers high-level insights on the legal structure of the business (whether it will be a corporation, LLC, partnership, sole proprietorship, etc.), along with details about the management positions and responsibilities.
- Description of service(s) or product line: an overview of the company’s product and service offerings and the benefits they will deliver to consumers, along with any plans/needs for copyrights, patents, or research and development.
- Marketing and sales strategy: a brief synopsis of how the business plans to attract and keep customers, along with how it plans to sell its offerings (with common examples including online, through distributors and/or in brick-and-mortar retail locations).
- Funding request: an estimation of the funding needs that are anticipated during the business’s initial five years, along with details on where the funds will come from and how the money will be used.
- Financial projections: with an eye toward the business’s prospects for stability and success, a glimpse at the financial outlook of the business during its first five years.
Another important business consideration
Especially in the digital age, it is also crucial for most upstart businesses to consider at an early stage the technological tools that will be used to get the job done more quickly, more efficiently and with greater precision. (In fact, these tools are likely to have an impact on a number of the business-plan components mentioned above, including but not limited to the description of service(s) and the funding request.)
Among the tech tools and services planners might want to keep in mind when preparing to launch a business:
- Devices: Common possibilities in this area include desktop and laptop computers, printers, scanners, desk phones, mobile phones and computer networking equipment such as routers and switches.
- Internet service: Because businesses tend to place a high demand on their internet networks with a sizable number of connected devices, regular uploads and downloads of large files and frequent video meetings or webinars, they require strong Internet plans to maintain adequate levels of efficiency and productivity.
- Phone service: To maintain a high level of professionalism and clear business communications, enterprises often require specialized voice plans that offer business-friendly features like voicemail-to-email delivery, three-way calling, call forwarding and an answering service. Further, to save money, businesses often seek out scalable solutions like Hosted PBX that can deliver high-definition (HD) voice services, collaboration tools, advanced mobility options and advanced calling features across a number of business locations.
- Wireless service: To keep on-the-go workers connected with colleagues and clients wherever they may roam, a wireless plan with unlimited data and strong cellular coverage is a must for many businesses.
- CRM platform: To ensure positive interactions and timely correspondence with customers, many businesses employ customer relationship management solutions such as HubSpot CRM, Zoho CRM and Salesforce. These often employ data analysis study and organize large amounts of information and garner business-building insights.
- Project management solution: To keep all projects on track and team members informed regarding their tasks and responsibilities, many businesses use project management software such as Teamwork, Basecamp, Zoho Projects or GanttPro.
- Cloud storage service: Cloud storage services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, IDrive and Microsoft OneDrive give businesses added storage capacity plus the ability for teams to collaborate on shared files from anywhere, no matter how far-flung colleagues might be.
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