For many entrepreneurs, choosing to finally go into business for yourself is an exciting decision that is the first step toward accomplishing a lifelong dream. While many people who choose to establish their own company have likely conceptualized a business idea long before they ultimately choose to go into business, not all are aware of the early steps they must take to set their company successfully in motion.
If you are a new entrepreneur who has recently settled on a business idea, your first order of business is research—entrepreneurs must thoroughly investigate the market they are about to enter to test the viability of their business concept. After this initial research comes the first true step you take toward officially establishing your company: the creation of a business plan. Listed below are eight useful tips to help you write a business plan that successfully serves your new company.
Consider your audience.
The first thing to do when developing a business plan is to think about the primary purpose the document will serve. For example, if your main goal is to find funding for your company, you will want to write a business plan that caters to potential investors. Conversely, if you already have the capital you need to get your business started, and instead need to attract a client base, you will want to design a business plan that answers a different set of questions than those investors would ask about your venture. Determine what you want to accomplish before you sit down to write, and then keep your audience in mind as you develop your plan.
Start with a vision.
Begin your business plan with an explanation of your company’s values, mission, and short-term goals. A simple outline that demonstrates your overarching vision for your venture will give your readers a succinct idea of the business and set them up to better understand the details you provide further in the document. If you aren’t comfortable expressing a vision for the company and would like to be more direct, start the document with a simple executive summary that explains your company’s basic purpose and achievements to date.
Demonstrate your research.
Once you get into the details of your business plan, make sure you demonstrate the extent of the research you conducted prior to writing. What’s most important to convey is that there are people willing to pay for your product or service. Include information about the market size, contrasting its current status and its projected growth for the future. Show that you’ve studied your competition and make it clear how your company will enter the market, what hurdles it may confront, and how it will overcome them. In contrast, if you are pioneering a whole new category of products or services, explain how you’ll be able to successfully create a market for your company.
Be cautious in your financial projections.
Financial analysis is an important part of creating a well-rounded business plan, especially if your primary use of the document will be to attract investors. When you do assess your budget and create a financial forecast, stay realistic and root every projection you make in reality, rather than your own feelings. You may have high hopes for your enterprise, but those who read your business plan need to see your idea as credible, which can only be done if you back up all of your numbers with facts. No matter how ambitious you are about your company’s potential, try to be conservative with your estimates and realistic about your financing needs. If you’re inexperienced in working with financial data, enlisting the help of an accountant for this aspect of your plan can help immensely.
Introduce your team.
If you have brought other management employees on board before your company has been fully established, include their credentials in your business plan. This doesn’t have to be an extensive section of the document, but it should represent the work that each person has done prior to joining your team and what he or she will contribute moving forward. Many investors are keen to see this information; it’s sometimes said that investors invest not so much in ideas, but in people. They have to trust you and your team—your experience, passion, and diligence—before they will give you money.
Break up walls of text within your business plan by including helpful visuals that illustrate key concepts. Consider using graphs and charts to make a powerful impact on your readers when communicating numbers. Include pictures of products or samples of advertising within your plan to give your audience a better idea of what your business is about and how it will function. These elements can strengthen the overall impression your business plan makes and encourage the audience to feel more confident about your ideas.
Though your business plan should demonstrate a commitment to professionalism throughout, don’t be afraid to get creative with elements like template or design. Weed out unnecessary information, but include personal elements that show your readers who you are and what kind of entrepreneur you will be as you lead the company. A few unique elements can go a long way toward grabbing the attention of investors or customers and make your business seem more authentic.
Get an objective opinion.
Once you’ve finished your business plan, make sure you have an objective third party review it before you present it to anyone within your professional network. Even if you feel completely confident about the work you’ve done, having another person with experience look over your work can help identify potential weaknesses and raise questions that end up making the plan even more compelling.