The internet has completely restructured the way we think about, and conduct, business. With the continued growth of marketplaces like eBay and Amazon, you can sell just about anything to anyone in any part of the world. While this means that you don’t need a business degree to run a successful business, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take some advice from the professionals and draw up a business plan for yourself.
What is a Business Plan?
For any business to be successful, you should at least have some sort of an idea about what direction you’re headed. A business plan is the written description of your business’s future. A document that clearly lays out what you plan to do and how you plan on doing it. While there is no surefire, “one size fits all” template for making a business plan, there are some basic guidelines to follow to see the best results; which are usually based on your intentions.
For example, if you are seeking investment, you would want to lay out your vision in the clearest terms, so your potential investors can make a well-informed decision. If you are simply coming up with a business plan for your own purposes, you won’t have to make it so formal and enticing.
Elements of a Great Business Plan
As said earlier, there isn’t a simple plug-and-play answer for drawing up your business plan, however, there are certain components that are inside all of the best ones:
- Executive Summary: This is going to sum up your entire business at a glance. This portion will likely be the last thing that you write, as it is a summation of what the document is all about it, however, it will be the first thing the viewer reads.
- Company Description: A complete overview of your company, the products and/or services you will provide, the types of customers you want to reach, and any advantages you may have that will help you achieve your goals.
- Market Analysis: This is one of the most important features inside of a business plan. It shows that you have an in-depth knowledge of the market you are about to enter. It’s going to show industry reports that indicate why now is a good time for your business to enter the scene; who/what your closest competition is, what they sell, how they are selling it and how you are going to top them.
- Operational Plan: This portion of the business plan will lay out, in clear details, the daily operations of your business. This means how many hours your team will work, process for inventory and all elements of accounting. Anything that pertains to the day to day of your business will fill this segment of your plan.
- Management Organization: Under this heading, you will talk about all of your managers and key employees. If you don’t know who these people are, this will contain a description of the job that someone will fill one day, so it is very clear who does what within the company.
- Product Description: In great detail, describe the products and/or services that your business will provide.
- Marketing: This section will detail any creative marketing strategies that you have or can foresee implementing once you have adequate funding.
- Financial Projections: Objectively, this is the most important part of the business plan. This is where you really need to do the numbers and find out how much your business will make over the next five years.
It’s important to remember that you don’t need to overthink the business plan if you’re just doing it for yourself. The last thing you want is to hold back your launch simply because you feel the plan isn’t to perfection on paper. The business plan is designed to help you rethink your business and look at it from all angles. You will likely go through many drafts which will really help you figure out your business. For example, you may not know how to start a furniture store online, however once you are done with the business plan and encounter some real-life business trial and error, you’ll have a much better idea how to adjust things.
Just because they are easy to start doesn’t mean you should jump right into opening an eCommerce store. Really dig your hands into your business plan and use the time spent on research to guide you down the path to success.