A business plan is basically the blueprint for your business. It should specify your business goals, and the steps needed to be taken so that the objectives are fulfilled.
It should cover everything, right from sourcing materials to building a complete product (if a transformation does take place) and selling it. Revenue streams, both inbound and outbound, are also to be mentioned on your business plan.
Preparing a business plan
A good business plan, one that will enable your business to be successful, should contain the following.
Vision/mission statement: This should be a brief summary of what you hope to achieve with your business. It goes without saying that making a profit is your primary objective, but you can also mention secondary goals like customer service, quality et al. Having one helps determine the course you should take when you are at the crossroads – and there will be many such situations in business.
People: Although you are the person behind your business, the kind of people who would be the best fit for your business should also be mentioned on the business plan. For instance, if you plan to start a restaurant, food servers with pleasing personalities might be better for your staff than MBA graduates.
Profile: In which industry vertical do you plan to operate? How will your business differentiate itself from its competitors? Which customer segment do you propose to serve? These are the questions that should be answered in this part of the business plan.
Operations: You need to mention on your business plan exactly how you plan to run your day-to-day operations. Not in brief, but in detail. Vendors, suppliers and business partners need to be included – they are essential to your business. A longer-term view would also list exactly how you plan to do your marketing and/or scale up business.
Finance: Mention how much starting capital you have, and exactly how it is going to be used. A realistic forecast of revenues should also be made, so that you know when you are going to break even / post profits. If you do this, you will be able to figure out how you plan to raise operating capital in the meantime.
Ideally, you should have three business plans – one for 1 year, another for 2 years and the third for 5 years; with the plans becoming more detailed as the time period decreases. There will be changes in the business environment, so when they happen (such as advances in technology rendering some processes/people/products obsolete), you will be in a better position to deal with them if you have a business plan.
No business plan is complete without the mention of a website. Contrary to the way things were in the past, having a website is no longer expensive – a domain name can be had for as little as a dollar, and website hosting fees are not high either.
Why should you have a website?
The reason is simple – the rules of business have changed. Today, people no longer care to interact with each other in person. Conversations have moved online, and social networking is the norm. Because of that, word-of-mouth recommendations have given way to website URLs. This also increases your credibility, as only someone who is serious about his/her business would care to have a website.
People also prefer not to walk into your brick-and-mortar establishment and talk to you in person. Time has become a most valuable commodity these days, and they don’t want to speak to you over the phone either. They would rather be ‘served’ with information when they want it, and hence the preference for websites.
This also works both ways – you can also save a lot of time that would otherwise have been spent responding to customer queries, either in person or over the phone. This leaves you with more time to focus on doing what you do best – running your business.
Millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s), who form the majority of the workforce – meaning this is the demographic with the most purchasing power – base their buying decisions on online reviews, and you cannot hope for any without a website of your own. A lot of purchases are also done online, so you could increase your sales exponentially by building e-commerce capabilities into your website.