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Since the My Own Business, Inc. course is broken down into fifteen of the most important topics to consider in starting or operating a business, your business plan can easily be organized into this same format. Included in this session, and in each of the following sessions, there is a one-page business plan template, which you can fill in and print. (Session 2 contains templates for both Sessions 1 and 2.) When you put these all together, you will have completed your personalized, overall plan.
We suggest that you fill in each section of the business plan, found at the end of each session, as you proceed through the course. Click to view each of the 15 business plan sections
Search engines, libraries and bookstores provide sources that sell ready-made plans for specific businesses. But it is our recommendation that you be sole author of your plan. Write out the plan yourself, in your own words.
Each of the Business Plan Sections can be downloaded from our Web site and provide you with a single, attractively presented document.
Be aware now that most start-up entrepreneurs are reluctant to write down their business plan. It is, therefore, strongly recommended that you complete each segment of the plan as you progress through this course. We make it easy for you by providing sample plans for both product and service businesses and also an attractive blank form that you can download onto MS Word and customize yourself.
Do not expect that all of your plan's initial assumptions will be correct. Instead, look at your business plan as an ongoing assessment that you will frequently review and change to conform to actual operating experiences. For example, your cash flow projection should be updated frequently to ensure ongoing liquidity (not running out of cash).
Your business plan will become your roadmap to chart the course of your business. But at the outset you cannot predict all of changing conditions that will surface. So after you have opened for business, it is important that you periodically review and update you plan.
What to Avoid in Your Business Plan
Avoid optimism. In fact, to offset optimism, be extremely conservative in predicting capital requirements, timelines, sales and profits. Few business plans correctly anticipate how much money and time will be required.
Avoid language or explanations that are difficult to understand. Do not ignore spelling out what your strategies will be in the event of business adversities.
Don't depend entirely on the uniqueness of your business or even a patented invention. Success comes to those who start businesses with great economics and not necessarily great inventions.
A Vision Statement: This will be a concise outline of your business purpose and goals.
The People: By far, the most important ingredient for your success will be yourself. Focus on how your prior experiences will be applicable to your new business. Prepare a résumé of yourself and one for each person who will be involved with you in starting the business. Be factual and avoid hype. This part of your Business Plan will be read very carefully by those with whom you will be having relationships, including lenders, investors and vendors. Templates for preparing résumés are available in your library, Kinko's, bookstores and the Internet under " résumés."
Session 2 of our Business Expansion course, Getting your team in place, provides detailed recommendations on delegating authority, employee motivation, training and other key management tools.
However, you cannot be someone who you are not. If you lack the ability to perform a key function, include this in your business plan. For example, if you lack the ability to train staff, include an explanation how you will compensate for this deficiency. You could add a partner to your plan (discussed in Section 4) or plan to hire key people who will provide skills you don't have. Include biographies of all your intended management.
Your Business Profile: Define and describe your intended business and exactly how you plan to go about it. Try to stay focused on the specialized market you intend to serve. As a rule, specialists do better than non-specialists.
Economic Assessment: Provide a complete assessment of the economic environment in which your business will become a part. Explain how your business will be appropriate for the regulatory agencies and demographics with which you will be dealing. If appropriate, provide demographic studies and traffic flow data normally available from local planning departments.
Cash Flow Assessment: Include a one-year cash flow that will incorporate your capital requirements (covered in Session 11). Include your assessment of what could go wrong and how you would plan to handle problems.
Marketing Plan and Expansion Plans: Your expansion plan should describe how you plan to test markets and products before rolling out. Refer to helpful government Web sites such as the Small Business Administration. See "Resources" on the home page of this Web site.
Damage Control Plan: All businesses will experience episodes of distress. Survival will depend on how well you are prepared to cope with them. Your damage control plan should anticipate potential threats to your business and how you plan to overcome them. Here are three examples:
In addition, a very popular software is Palo Alto's Business Plan Pro (U.P. $99), a user-friendly business plan software with very wide range of sample plans already included. 10% off for MOBI users on Business Plan Pro here.
For a more advanced template, especially useful if you are looking for partners or investors, we recommend the Ultimate Business Plan Template (U.P. $97) from Growthink. We have negotiated a special 50% discount for MOBI users.
Start-up entrepreneurs often have difficulty writing out business plans. This discipline is going to help you in many ways so don't skip this planning tool! To make it easier, here are eight steps that will produce a worthwhile plan:
A Sound Business Concept: The single most common mistake made by entrepreneurs is not selecting the right business initially. The best way to learn about your prospective business is to work for someone else in that business before beginning your own. There can be a huge gap between your concept of a fine business and reality.
Understanding of Your Market: A good way to test your understanding is to test market your product or service before your start. You think you have a great kite that will capture the imagination of kite fliers throughout the world? Then craft some of them and try selling them first.
A Healthy, Growing and Stable Industry: Remember that some of the great inventions of all time, like airplanes and cars, did not result in economic benefit for many of those who tried to exploit these great advances. For example, the cumulative earnings of all airlines since Wilber Wright flew that first plane are less than zero. Success comes to those who find businesses with great economics and not necessarily great inventions or advances to mankind.
Capable Management: Look for people you like and admire, who have good ethical values, have complementary skills and are smarter than you. Plan to hire people who have the skills that you lack. Define your unique ability and seek out others who turn your weaknesses into strengths.
Able Financial Control: You will learn later the importance of becoming qualified in accounting, computer software and cash flow management. Most entrepreneurs do not come from accounting backgrounds and must go back to school to learn these skills. Would you bet your savings in a game where you don't know how to keep score? People mistakenly do it in business all the time.
Financial Management Skills: Build a qualified team to evaluate the best options for utilizing retained earnings. This information is contained in Session 6 of our Business Expansion course.
A Consistent Business Focus: As a rule, people who specialize in a product or service will do better than people who do not specialize. Focus your efforts on something that you can do so well that you will not be competing solely on the basis of price.
A Mind set to Anticipate Change: Don't commit yourself too early. Your first plan should be written in pencil, not in ink. Keep a fluid mind set and be aggressive in making revisions as warranted by changing circumstances and expanding knowledge.
Include Plans for Conducting Business Online: According to the January 2005 Trend/Forecasting Report of The Dilenschneider Group, in the U.S. alone, the 2004 holiday season online shopping jumped by more than 25% from 2003. (In 2005 it jumped another 25%!) Consumer and business-to-business online sales are set to expand exponentially in the coming decade, and small retailers can reach an ever-increasing pool of customers. Be sure to see the how-to details in the following Session 12, E-commerce.
Now is the time for you to review the sample plans we have provided. This will help you in formatting your own plan. For some tips on appropriate information to fill in, refer to the sample business plans:
You can now begin to assemble your business plan. If you have not yet selected a business, you can pick one to practice on. Remember, we have provided attractive, individual business templates for each session that you can download as Microsoft Word documents. So start now!
Instructions on filling in the business plan template:
as you proceed through the course.
The full template for all sessions 1-15 can also be downloaded into your computer as a single document:
Include sufficient research findings and background materials. Make it interesting by the use of background data, your biography, charts, demographics and research data. When your business plan is completed, print off and assemble the 15 sections.
Many other business plan formats are available in libraries, bookstores and online.
Deciding on a business | The business plan | Home based businesses | Financing the business | Business organization | Licenses and permits | Business insurance | Communication tools | Buying a business or franchise | Location and leasing | Accounting and cash flow | E-Commerce | Opening and marketing | Managing employees | Expanding and handling problems
Getting financial controls in place | Getting your team in place | Customer feedback | Achieving lowest expenses | Develop negotiating skills | Alternatives for capital allocation | Advanced E-Commerce | Growth by duplication | Vertical integration | Franchising your business | Global expansion | Buying businesses | Public ownership | Selling your business | Considerations for family succession
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