Perhaps you awoke this morning buzzing with excitement about a fantastic idea that occurred to you for a start up business opportunity. Of course a concrete idea is the first and most important step in regard to your new venture, but that’s only the beginning. Now that you have your idea in place, the next step is to start putting together a great business plan.
Where Should You Start?
Getting started may at first seem like an overwhelmingly difficult challenge but with the proper preparation you can have a great plan together in practically no time at all. Before beginning the process though, you might want to start by keeping copious notes that refer to every aspect of your business. As you start to write, think about the things that you want to convey to potential investors or financiers. How do you want to project yourself and your company? How will your particular product, service or business fill a need in the marketplace? What do you do differently than everyone else? Even if the thoughts that occur to you seem insignificant, keep your ideas in a simple notebook so that when you're ready all your ideas are in one place.
Description of Your Business
If your goal is to successfully persuade investors to back your business, a sound, comprehensive company description detailing your particular product or service should be presented in the very first part of your plan. In the description you will define what your company is about, what it does and what it hopes to achieve. Offer data that explains why you think you will reach your goals, why you believe you are a sound investment, and why your company has what it takes to make a dent in the marketplace. Basically you're giving a brief synopsis of your organization, which should include how you gained your experience as well as your growth potential. This section should include where you're at, your current goals and your future intentions. As you move forward with your plan be prepared to make revisions.
In the Product/Service section of your plan you should include all the details pertaining to your particular product or service. Whether your company is offering merchandise or a service, explain in detail what you have to offer. Give specifics as to how this product will make a difference in someone's life or in the world. Share costs and benefits and make sure you present it in a dynamic manner. If your plan clearly demonstrates the potential of your product or service, a wise investor will quickly see the inherent return on the money they invest, along with an opportunity to grow a successful business, which is exactly what you're hoping they'll see.
An extremely important part of a business plan is your marketing strategy. In this section you will explain how you intend to reach your target audience. Keep in mind that it is precisely what it claims, a marketing strategy. Therefore you will be presenting ways in which you plan to promote your business. Whether it's through a web site, press releases, advertisements, sales letters, television, radio, direct mail, newspaper or magazines, give precise examples. The marketing strategy section gives you the opportunity to demonstrate how you intend to get the word out. A well-put together strategy is the tool you'll need for convincing someone of your ability to reach your target audience.
An extremely important part of a business plan is providing details in regard to your competition. You don't have to be afraid of sharing who and what you may be competing against since your business will have a specialty all its own. Be sure to research your competitors in regard to whether their business is growing or diminishing and why. Do you have direct competitors or indirect competitors? Are you aware of their weaknesses and strengths? Is your pricing strategy equal or are your fees higher or lower? Perhaps your business is so unique you have no competition, which of course makes you an even more attractive possibility for a loan. In that case you must define why you think this newer service or product will be a success. It's in the competition section that you clearly explain how you plan to compete in the marketplace and what it is that you offer over and above your competitors.
It's a good idea to include bios of the key decision-makers of your company. Team members are the most important resource of your company therefore their role in the company should be explained. Include your own bio, demonstrating what skills you possess and why you can manage a team of people. If you have experience in many areas, explain that as well, or show how your team members will be able to handle all the other important details. A bio is where an investor gains insight as to how your business experience will help you achieve in your new venture.
If you're targeting a specific market here is the place to illustrate who and what that specific market will be. Spell it out in detail. Will it be to the private sector or government contracts? Are you seeking retailers or wholesalers? Are you searching for distributors? Who are your customers or clients going to be and how are you going to attract them? If by chance your target market is unlimited, meaning you have no concern or limitations regarding age, profession, income levels or gender, make sure to explain that as well.
The Financial Section
As a business owner who is seeking a loan or an investor, you'll need to identify how much money you want to borrow and then show how you will meet your financial obligations. Consequently, the financial section of your plan is the one that will receive the most detailed scrutiny and investigation. As a beginning place you should ask yourself the following questions: How much money do I have, how much money will I need for my start-up venture and how much money will I need to stay in business? Be sure to include complete financial assumptions, statements and projections. A Banker, Investor or Loan Company will carefully review your future forecasts and earning potential so never skimp on the financials. These are the calculations that will either invite investors or turn them away. If you plan on including spreadsheets and projections, I highly recommend that an accountant prepare them. Some people choose to include a financial assumption page, explaining how their money will be used. In that case include your entire overhead and expenses, as well as items you'll need to purchase for the success of your business. For a start up venture these can include everything from wages, expenses, supplies, licenses, advertising, travel, accounting, legal services, rent, telephone, utilities, insurance, etc. Be detailed and specific.
Obviously, this is only a brief summation of what a business plan requires but it does include all the important aspects of a plan. You can include other sections but start with these and add and take away as you move forward. When you submit your plan to venture capitalists or other financial experts, be sure your verbiage is dynamic and enthusiastic. A well-put together plan will ensure that you'll be taken seriously. Use influential words that demonstrate your enthusiasm, experience and knowledge. Highlight your key points and be sure you are prepared to answer any and all questions a potential investor might ask. Your presentation is of the utmost importance in reaching a financier and can mean the difference between attracting the right investor or failing to be heard.
About the Author
Charlene Rashkow is a Writing Stylist who has successfully written outstanding business material for companies and individuals for more than 15 years. Creating clever promotional materials, Charlene is well known for her press releases, web site content, business plans, resumes, brochure copy and ghostwriting manuscripts. You may visit Charlene Rashkow at www.allyourwritingneeds.com, email her, or call her directly at (310) 514-4844.
© 2006 Charlene Rashkow