Every new business start up has a business plan that varies in sophistication from a few brief thoughts, an idea or aspiration to a formal written document setting out all major elements. Preparing a business plan is essential if grants are to be applied for or money is being borrowed to fund the start up. The strong message being that potential lenders regard a business plan as essential.
Finance companies and banks demand a written business plan before putting up financial support to a new business. All medium and large companies inevitably prepare a financial budget for the coming year. That should tell everyone that not producing a written business plan is the first mistake everyone starting a new business might make.
Starting a new business without a proper business plan is akin to taking a blind walk in the dark without no road or map to follow. It should not come as a surprise to learn that the majority of new start ups consequently fail within the first two years dashing the hopes and dreams of many budding entrepreneurs.
The benefits to an entrepreneur in producing a detailed comprehensive business plan when some-one is considering starting a new business lie strongly in the thought process that goes into producing that plan rather than the ultimate plan itself. New start ups should regard a business plan as a road map to get the show on the road.
A properly thought out and written business plan for a small business should contain the details of how the small business is going to get started. A typical plan might include a short synopsis of the new business with sections on sales and marketing, operations or production, purchasing, personnel plus a financial section evaluating those plans and putting real numbers on the written text.
The short synopsis should briefly describe the main business and mention each of the main ingredients contained within the plan to attain the objectives. The rest of the business plan should support that synopsis and should be factual rather than a sales document.
Sales and marketing should include an analysis of the potential and forecast sales, competition and how the sales will be achieved. Identify the sales channels that will produce the sales and why they will produce the sales. The sales section should specifically state the volume of sales of each product over at least the first year and the price at which each of those products will be sold and note the sensitivity of all items to unexpected events.
The operations and production section is dependent upon the type of business and will be variable depending on whether the new start up business was providing services, retailing or manufacturing. The production section is basically a detailed picture of the vehicle that will be used to generate the products to be sold.
Purchasing would include an analysis of how the products to be sold would be sourced. Volumes should be stated and sources of supply specifically identified with a real purchase cost of all major items specified not guessed.
Personnel would include the names of the people involved with brief details of their knowledge, qualifications and previous experience. The personnel section would also include details of people yet to be recruited if the work to be performed is going to be critical to the new business.
The financial section of a business plan should contained a forecast profit and loss account preferably each month for the first year at least with perhaps a summary of the second year. In addition to the profit and loss account a cash flow statement taking into account capital introduced and stock levels should also be produced.
The sales and production or purchasing numbers including volume and prices contained within the report should be reflected in the financial report. Each major critical assumption within the plan should be subjected to a financial sensitivity analysis that takes into account all potential risks to volume and price levels.
The process of preparing a detailed comprehensive business plan that has been properly researched has significant benefits in itself. If the business has been researched and thought through before the new business starts there is a much higher can it will succeed and suffer fewer negative surprises once the real work of generating sales and profit begins.