Whether you’re in the process of starting your own business or you’ve been in business for years now but just never got around to writing your business plan, this blog is for you. Here, I've compiled some great information to help you put together this ultra important document. Let’s start with the basics:
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a formal document detailing everything about your business. Venture coach Stever Robbins writes in an article on Entrepreneur.com that a business plan includes “your value proposition, marketing assumptions, operations plan, financial plan, and staffing plan.” He also goes on to point out that your business plan drives the future because it contains goals for all major areas (sales, expenses, hiring, and financing). “Once laid out,” he writes, “the targets become performance goals.” As such, your business plan will act as a baseline for monitoring your progress so you remain accountable as well as a tool for “after-the-fact learning” if you perform better or worse than expected.
Who needs a business plan?
In short, anyone who is running a business should have a business plan—especially when working with investors, partners, or employees. According to another article on Entrepreneur.com, “...anybody beginning or extending a venture that will consume significant resources [money, energy, or time]...and that is expected to return a profit, should take the time to draft some kind of plan.” The article goes on to discuss the times when it would be appropriate—and beneficial—to update an existing plan (for example, if you’ve reached a milestone, brought on a new partner, or are about to enter a new financial period). In other words, an out-of-date business plan won’t do you any good, so be sure to set reminders that trigger you to review it in intervals appropriate to your business.
Why plan the plan?
According to yet another article on Entrepreneur.com—apparently this is an important topic for entrepreneurs of all industries—you should begin at the beginning, with a plan for the plan. After all, as this article’s author points out, “One of the most important reasons to plan your plan is that you may be held accountable for the projections and proposals it contains. [This is] especially true if you use your plan to raise money to finance your company.” There are other reasons why planning your plan is worthwhile. For example, it might take some serious thinking—and rethinking—to finalize your company’s goals. And if you’re working with a business partner, you’ll have to agree on everything. So instead of getting your entire plan in place and then having to start over when you realize you have conflicting goals, start off with some pre-work. Answer the following list of questions—also courtesy of Entreprenuer.com—about your business:
Goals and Objectives Checklist
- How determined am I to see this succeed?
- Am I willing to invest my own money and work long hours for no pay, sacrificing personal time and lifestyle, maybe for years?
- What's going to happen to me if this venture doesn't work out?
- If it does succeed, how many employees will this company eventually have?
- What will be its annual revenues in a year? Five years?
- What will be its market share in that time frame?
- Will it be a niche marketer, or will it sell a broad spectrum of good and services?
- What are my plans for geographic expansion? Local? National? Global?
- Am I going to be a hands-on manager, or will I delegate a large proportion of tasks to others?
- If I delegate, what sorts of tasks will I share? Sales? Technical? Others?
- How comfortable am I taking direction from others? Could I work with partners or investors who demand input into the company's management?
- Is it going to remain independent and privately owned, or will it eventually be acquired or go public?
Now that you’ve got your business goals and objectives fine-tuned and finalized, it’s time to talk about how you plan to reach those goals. In other words, marketing. Whether you’re aiming to bring in new business for the company or to recruit top-tier staff, how you position your business within your local community and the therapy community at large is extremely important. And, according to yet a fourth Entreprenuer.com article—this one written by Marsha Friedman, Chief Executive Officer of EMSI Public Relations—your business plan should include a marketing budget for both time and money. Additionally, Friedman points out that your plan should tackle some other important questions, like, “What is my message?” and “Who is my audience?” Need more insight into answering these questions? Check out this WebPT blog about finding and marketing your niche.
There you have it: how to start a business plan. Later today, I'll cover how to finish one. In the meantime, what tips and tricks have you found useful in beginning your own business plan? Or what questions do you have?