Get ready: Here comes 2011
'Tis the season where everyone is thinking about the upcoming holidays, skiing in the mountains, as December is a short month and business is either slowing down or going crazy to hit year end numbers. However, if you didn't begin your 2011 business plan process in October or November, December is the time to accelerate strategic and tactical planning to prepare your business for the new year.
Your company's business plan can be one of your most important business documents - IF it is well written and usable. A plan that is unrealistic, too simplistic or a monstrosity parked in a binder is useless. Depending on the need of the business, the business plan will have different characteristics. In some cases, it might be necessary to have two versions of your business plan.
If the plan is to be used to attain funding from financial institutions or investors, its tone will be geared for that type of reader.
The business must be described as a well conceived and viable business. Investors want to assess the comprehensiveness of the idea and/or the products and services. They will vet the management team and their experience and the financials will be rigorously reviewed. The business plan must not only be compelling, but thorough and detailed.
If the plan is to be used by an entrepreneur who intends to use the plan as a road map for his or her business, it will be written with the goals of the business in mind. Attention to the objectives of each goal and steps to achieve those goals will be included. Practical financial projections are included and the emphasis is on the requirements for starting and growing a profitable business.
In addition to the Executive Summary (which provides a synopsis of the plan) a business plan is made up of five distinct sections; each with important components. An appendix may be included if there is substantial supporting content to reinforce statements made in the plan.
By following the outline below, a thorough plan can be crafted narrating the purpose of the company, your products and services, how you going to produce, market and sell your products and services, who and how you will manage the business and how it will be financed and sustain profitability.
Some of these sections will be one or two sentences in length. It is not necessary to have an abundance of words. Brevity with specific content is preferable. Depending on the type of your business and your point in the organization lifecycle, some of these sections will be more robust than others. A few sections may not be pertinent to your business at all.
It is important to remember that your plan will only be as good and thorough as the information you share.
1. Description of Business
a. Company description
i. Legal company name, dba's, brand names, model names, web domain names, legal form of company, ownership, business location(s), patents, etc.
b. Company mission and vision and values
i. Statement of company purpose or objective
ii. Long term vision, goals, business strategies
iii. Value statement of the firm
c. Market opportunity or concept
i. Description of your industry
1. industry maturity, seasonality affects, economic factors, government regulations, technology advances
ii. Industry analysis and trends
1. size and growth of your industry
2. distribution channels
iii. Strategic opportunities within the industry
d. Stage of development
i. Clear sense of how far along the company is in terms of development, customers, revenue, technology, etc.
e. Overview of products and services
i. Description of all products and services. What need do they fill? How do they save time or money? Why should someone buy?
i. Outline of milestones achieved to date
ii. Future milestones to measure success
g. Community involvement and social responsibility
h. Exit plan / Strategy
a. Target market
i. Thorough understanding of your customers
ii. Distinct, meaningful characteristics of market segments
iii. Demographic information
b. Marketing and sales strategy
i. Market size and trends
ii. Your company's message (product, price, promotion and
iii. Marketing vehicles and tactics
iv. Marketing budget
v. Sales structure and channels (sales personnel and process)
vi. Sales projections
c. Competition and market research
i. Competitive assessment
ii. Customer perceptions
iii. Competitive operational factors
iv. Market share distribution
v. Future competitors
d. SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)
i. Your strategic position (advantages and barriers)
ii. Risk analysis
a. Day to day functions of your company
c. Production plans
d. Supply and distribution
e. Order fulfillment
f. Customer service
g. Research and development
h. Financial control
i. Technology plan and budget
4. Management and Organization
a. Histories and capabilities of management team
b. Personnel requirements
c. Compensations and incentives
d. Board of Directors, Advisory Boards and Consultants
e. Management style
a. Income Statement
b. Cash Flow Projections
c. Balance Sheet
d. Break-even Analysis
e. Sources and uses of funds
The Business plan should be a living document that guides the CEO and management team on a strategic and tactical course for the fiscal year, not just a document that sits on the shelf and collects dust. In the course of your business operations, it may be necessary to update assumptions, financial projections, and milestones.