Your staff, location, product and service are all important, but they can all suffer when you lack a strong business plan. Having a solid business plan is essential to setting yourself up for a prosperous future, but for most people, creating a business plan can be intimidating without prior experience in writing one. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available for small business owners who need a little help planning their paths to success.
Make Your Plan a Priority
Having a business plan should be your first priority when starting a small business because it will dictate everything that follows. “Usually, people want to start with their product or location, and those are the things that fall last,” Anne, the owner of Cleveland’s Harness Cycle, says. “There are so many other elements that go into understanding how to run a business first.”
Making your plan your first priority, above secondary things like location and hiring, helps you envision what your big dreams really are and allows you to set goals to get there. A business plan includes everything from company descriptions, product or service lines and market analyses to organization and management structure, and marketing and financial projections. One of the most important purposes of a business plan is to help you determine who your target market is and how you’ll reach them. Knowing and organizing all of these factors before you focus on anything else is key to making your business one that’s successful and one that lasts.
Use Your Resources
Trying to formulate a plan without any experience or help can be perilous. Fortunately for small business owners, help is available and plentiful. There are many resources out there to assist in developing a business plan, and the right program can help you build one geared for success. “Find a program that is going to coach you in writing your business plan. It’s step one,” Anne says. The help you need is out there. You just have to use it.
One of the best resources is the Business Plan Tool available on sba.gov. This free tool helps you outline the first three to five years of your business and builds a “road map” for you to follow as you get things going. You can update the plan at any time and refer back to it to see how you’re matching up with your projections and goals.
Talk Out the Next Steps
After developing your business plan online, find a mentor or counselor who can help you out with the next steps. If you use the SBA’s Business Plan Tool, you’ll automatically have the option to share it with an SBA-approved counselor. Discussing what your plan means and the next steps you need to take are key to following through on it. Explore other SBA resource partners like a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or a Women’s Business Center (WBC) for further assistance.
For any small business owner just starting out, developing and having a solid business plan is the first key to success. And with the help of free resources and counseling, you can create one that works for you and your company.