how to write a business plan

How to Write a Business Plan

Sneak Peek: Learn how to write a business plan to grow and expand your business.

You’ve probably heard it before: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

In fact, this quote has gotten so trite a simple Google search can’t even tell you if it’s attributed to Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, “proverb,” or someone else. So yes, we’ve heard this quote over and over again. So much that it’s almost lost its punch.

But here’s the problem: it’s still true.

What is a business plan then?

A Business plan give you a map, a blueprint, a pathway for you to move along as your grow and expand your business.

A business plan is NOT a to-do list.

Once you have your vision in mind (where you want to go), now we need to move into action. But, it’s bigger than simply scribbling down a list of things you’ve got to get done today.

It’s your commitment and your plan of action – A Vision In Action.

A business plan keeps you on track and shows you what to do next. It reminds you of what you need to be doing and where you should be focusing your time and efforts.

Can I still succeed without a business plan?

Sure, you can make SOME progress while existing in a purely reactive state. But at some point, you’ll need to become proactive if you want to really maximize your personal and business potential. And this means some serious planning is in order.

This isn’t just about goal setting, although that is a key part of the equation. In fact, planning becomes even more critical after each set of goals is accomplished. This is about figuring out what’s next, what’s after that and so on. The ultimate opportunity to write your own script, once you’ve already pre-determined the happy ending.

Different businesses require different business plans…

For example, if you own a retail store and want to eventually have five locations, there are a ton of factors you’ll have to consider:

  • How much will it cost and where will the money come from? Where will the new stores be located?
  • Will customers have easy access to these locations?
  • What kinds of interior work will each building need and what kind of furnishings will be required?

The list goes on and on.

You may or may not have a retail business in a position like this, but it’s an illustration. Any business at any level will have goals that give rise to a long list of questions in much the same way.

It’s your responsibility as a business owner to take the bull by the horns and lead these planning efforts to yield outstanding results.

Forecasting the future…

You’ll have to make certain assumptions in your planning efforts. Not every assumption will be precisely correct, but that isn’t what’s important. The exercise itself is what matters, which is why it’s also important to do this yourself rather than outsource it to your accountant.

Get up close and personal with not only the current “real-world” version of your business, but also with the potential incarnations it will take on depending on the actions you take down the road.

Elements of a Business Plan…

The easiest way to get started is to start with your vision (what you hope it can become) and work your way back into a plan to get you there.

Now decide how much revenue you want the company to earn in the next year or forecast projected revenue.

Now before we dive a little deeper into where you’re going, we need to know where you’re at right now! One helpful tool is to complete a S.W.O.T. analysis. Start by writing out your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Your Strengths (internal, positive factors):

What do you do well? Where do you outshine your competitors? What advantages do you have over your competitors?

Your Weaknesses (internal, negative factors):

What does your business lack? What struggles are happening inside the business?

Your Opportunities (external, positive factors):

What opportunities exist right now that you could take advantage of to move you forward? Are there key relationships that could be strengthened?

Your Threats (internal, negative factors):

Who are your competitors? Do you know their next moves? Are there any economic changes happening within the next year that may impact your business in a negative way?

A S.W.O.T. analysis gives you a much better picture of some of the actions you need to take in the next year to move you forward. But you’ll also need to evaluate HOW you plan to get from Point A to Point B.

Don’t get hung up on writing a fancy business plan with all the bells and whistles. You just need your path. The easiest thing you can do is continue to ask yourself questions –

  • Who is your ideal customer? (This is marketing)
  • Where will you find your customers? (More marketing)
  • How much money can you spend on acquiring these customers? (Finances and marketing)
  • What’s kind of marketing efforts will actually bring you an immediate ROI? (More marketing)
  • How will we sell to our customers? (Sales)
  • What additional services or products can we sell our customers? (Sales and retention)
  • How will we stay in contact with our customers (Marketing and retention)
  • How will we measure our results, stay accountable and know we are on the right track? (Key performance indicators?)

Overall, keep it really simple, share the plan with others employees and key contractors to make sure everyone is on the same page. Commit to looking over your plan at least quarterly to see what kind of progress you have made and also to make adjustments to the plan. It will never be 100% complete because both new circumstances and opportunities will present themselves that will require you to make adjustments to the plan.


Get Started: Writing a Small Business Plan

Create a quick and simple business plan to keep you on track for the year.

To-Do #1: Determine your vision and where you are going with your business plan.

Where do you want to go? Where do you want to be in the one, five or ten years? Write it all down. This is your time to dream, so do it big!

To-Do #2: Decide on your goals for the business in the next year.

Next decide what your short-term, medium-term and long-term business goals are. What kind of revenue do you want to make? Do you have any projections?

As mentioned in the guide, any goal will give rise to a list of questions about how to get there. Most goals likely will also give rise to a list of other smaller goals. You might call them milestones. It’s important to figure out as many of these waypoints as possible when setting goals, as they’ll go a long way in letting you know what kind of progress you’re making.

Any business worth running will provide you with a list of goals. It’s important to challenge and stretch yourself. Allow yourself to set some goals that seem out of reach. If you always set comfortable goals, you just won’t grow very quickly.

To-Do #3: Complete a S.W.O.T. Analysis.

Write out your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in your business. Don’t over-complicate this process. Keep it simple and make a list of each category!

To-Do #4: Work backward from the goals you’ve established to decide what it will take to get there.

What actions do you need to take to get to where you want to be? Have a planning session. This may be just you, or if you have a team it’s best to involve everyone if possible. Put your head(s) together and discuss marketing and sales – where can you find your customers and how will you sell to them?

Take it a step further and see what additional products and services you may offer them and how you will continue to court and serve them, keeping them excited and engaged in your brand.

To-Do #5: Use a strong accountability system on an ongoing basis.

Business plans often get written and then never picked up again. Don’t lose your map! Mark your calendar now to review your new business plan once a month and make quick updates and changes to it. Then be sure and notify key team members.