I like to think of business planning and visioning a little bit like a road map to success. The process involves a series of exercises that are designed to help you decide how to get your business from the idea stage, to the point where you break even, and start making a profit, and beyond.
There are many ways to go about business planning and visioning, and, contrary to popular belief, your business plan does not have to be written in any kind of formal language – unless you plan to use it to apply for financing.
The simplest way to get started on your business plan, is to sit down with a piece of paper and a pen, and start jotting down whatever ideas you have that relate to the business you’d like to run.
Once you’ve assembled a healthy amount of information on what your business will be about, it’s time to begin the process of creating a structured business plan, but again, this need not be a difficult or technical process. It is simply a means of organising your thoughts about your business into a logical and easy to follow document that will grow with your business, and help you to decide what your next step will be along the way.
Typically, a business plan is made up of several different sections. These include the executive summary, a general description of your business, your products or services, a marketing plan, an operations plan, a section on the management and organisation of your new business, your personal financial statement, start up and operational expenses, a financial plan and any appendices you may want to add to the document.
If all that sounds like a lot of technical mumbo jumbo that you are never going to be able to finish, do not worry. Business planning and visioning is not supposed to be a task that you dread, or that makes you want to run away! Take it one step at a time, and take your time to write down everything you believe will be relevant to the start up and running of your business.
Include the form of company you are planning to start, whether you will have partners in your business, and who your target market will be in the general description section. Figure out how you are going to market your business and to whom and write down where you may find such people(s), and your products and services, and write those methods down in your marketing plan. When it comes to operations, will you be running a cash only business, or accepting credit applications? Will you operate from premises, or from your home? When it comes to financial matters, decide what you will need to start your business, and what it will cost. Think about what it will cost to run your business, including salaries or wages, premises rental, stock and utilities.
Ideally, your business planning process should take several weeks or even months, and you will add to the plan as you go along, writing down everything you can think of that will take your business from start up to success. That document will also accompany you as you work on your business, changing and evolving with your business.
The main benefit of formal business planning and visioning to the business owner is that it forces you to think about all the different factors that will determine the success of your business venture. It also helps you to create a logical ‘road map’ for your company, and gives you something to refer to during the often frantic and tumultuous process of launching a company.
One trick that I’ve found works quite well when you’re in the throes of the business planning and visioning phase of a start up is to think about where you would like your business to be in two or even five years. Then work backwards, through each of the steps that you would have to take in order to get from where you are now, to where you would like to be.
Business planning and visioning is a combination of imagination and planning, which allows you to see past what you have now, to what you would like to have in your company. It focuses your mind, and gives you an opportunity to think about the steps that will be needed to make a success of your company, but it is not something that requires you to have a degree! All you need is a passion for your chosen business, a little business knowledge (that you can find in any small business book), and a logical method of planning.
The old saying goes: those who fail to plan, plan to fail, and that is particularly true of starting a business. So spend some time on your business planning and visioning now, and launch your business with a clear road map in mind, and a good idea of the direction you are heading in, and how you will get there.