Writing a business plan to help you direct and manage your company is a key part of starting you new company that will help lead you and your company to success. Creating a “living and breathing” business plan makes that success even easier to reach. Many people feel that the sole purpose of a business plan is to get funding, and write a plan that is targeted to that audience. This plan should be considered a piece of you Fund quest documentation, but should not necessarily be edited to meet each funding source.
What is a living and breathing business plan? It is a short document that outlines your company, its product or products, and the development stages of that/those product(s), competition, market or industry, marketing strategies, sales strategies, including key clients you want to target, and your financial needs and goals. As your products advance in development, as the marketing strategies shift and change due to success or failures in marketing, as you acquire those clients you were targeting or you change your target clients, as you acquire funding or revenue streams, your plan gets updated to reflect the next steps.
Many people dread the “writing of the plan” process. It doesn’t have to be that hard. You already have an idea that you have pretty firmly in your mind, or you wouldn’t be creating a company.
Write a short paragraph that summarizes that idea. From there, write a paragraph or two on each product that you plan on building. Just describe the product, not how to create it. Next look at the market, write a couple (two or three) paragraphs on the market, including the market value, and the ups and downs in the market. Next you need to show yourself the value proposition in your company over the market and who the competition is. Now you are going to want to know how you are going to sell your product(s) and what that cost is going to be and how much you are going to sell it for, in two to three paragraphs. You should by now have an idea of how you are going to market your product, and write those ideas out in a couple of paragraphs, not too much detail yet. At this point you have a good idea of what your staffing needs are going to be in the near term, three to five years at the high end, next year or two at the near end, so write it out in a paragraph or two. To run a valid company, you need three people, a Business Manager, a Financial Manager, and a Product Manager. (These can be one person, two people, or three people, and I recommend that it be at least two people, Business/Product Manager in one, and a Financial Manager. You want the checks and balances of having two people monitoring the money. ) Write up a paragraph on each of these key people, describing their qualities and abilities. If you are going to have Executive level people managing sales, marketing, etc, you would want to put in a paragraph on these people as well.
Guess what, you just wrote your Executive Summary of your total Business Plan!! In total, it probably came out to three or five pages of copy! You are almost done!! (Ok, you have some work ahead of you, but you have the outline in place for the rest of the work. ) Again, these pages should only summarize where you are going with your company over the next three to five years. This is a document in and of itself that you will be using in your initial presentations, as a PART of your presentation, for going for outside funding.
Now, within this document, go to a new page and copy the WHOLE THING back into the document. From here you now start getting into more detail.
For each product you have, you need a page or two mapping, assuming a new company and new products, the development of the product, what the product is and how it works, etc. Go into more detail on the market, who the competition is, and how your company differs from these folks. In expanding on your sales review you will need to post your first three to five target clients you want to land. Give details such as who to contact, how they buy your type of product, etc. THIS SECTION NEEDS TO BE UPDATED, as does every section, AS YOUR CLIENTS ARE ACQUIRED OR DROPPED! Get into more detail on the kind of people you need to hire, especially in key positions, time lines, cost, etc. . Give full profiles of your Key Executives.
You now have 95% of your full business plan in place. The next thing to do is create your financial data sheets that outline your first two years expenses and income by month, the next two years by quarter, and the fifth year by year. Again, these are approximates. If your company has been around for any length of time, with expenses or revenue, you need to put in historical data, in front of “future” pages, as well to keep you up to date in your plan of how you are going historically as well as in the future.
You have now created a document that you can keep an eye on your company and direction from, and that you can present to funding sources as an outline of how you are going to spend their money once they hand the money over to you. But the key is to keep this document current. It isn’t so big so keeping it up to date shouldn’t be the hassle that many of the current tombs out there are, and it keeps you on track!! If you change tracks, change the plan!
If you write a business plan to guide and manage your company from, which changes as your company changes, you will be more apt to meet your goals.
Create and write a presentation, centered on your plan, as your Fund Search document. In that document, you can target your funding source, but your plan remains a valid, living and breathing business plan, that you can, and should, continue to use after you get funded.
Don is a Venture Capitalist with over 15 years of successfully funding early stage Ventures. Information on his fund can be found at http://www.tdbellenterprises.com/fund.html His company also consults start up companies on business plan development and start up strategies. http://www.tdbellenterprises.com