Guest Post by Robin Suomi, Small Business Coach and Consultant
This is how many small business owners view business planning:
- Business Planning….yawn. I know I should, but really? I don’t have time and I don’t want to.
- Business Planning…..pure panic when something unexpected happens (as it inevitably will)! Why in the world didn’t I take the time to write my business plan?! Is it too late now?!
We are conditioned to think planning is boring, long, tedious, and of no real value in the end. All we REALLY care about is getting our business up and running, being our own boss, doing things our way, leaving the long commute behind and living the dream. As a small business owner, you may not be looking for financing, so you figure why write a business plan, right? Well, no.
Smart business planning will help you avoid those moments of pure panic when something unexpected happens and your business is not running according to “plan.” Let’s face it, you have a “plan” in your head. You are part-way there, and congratulations!
However, you need to take the time and commit the resources to really think things through strategically, complete the planning process from start to finish, and put your plan on paper. You need to fully explore the areas of feasibility/growth, strategy, products and services, marketing, management and operations, legal aspects, and financing.
Also consider your audience and the reason you are writing your plan. Is it to obtain bank financing? investor financing? landlord approval for new space? attract a partner? for your own internal planning purposes (always a good one, by the way!)? Determining your audience may lead you to more fully develop different parts of your plan.
This is your dream, your life, and it requires your serious attention.
There are many ways to write your business plan:
- You can write your business plan on your own, at your own pace
- You can take a business plan class, working with others that will hold you accountable
- You can hire a small business professional to write it for you
Writing Your Business Plan on Your Own
Start out with a trip to your local library. Consider taking your lunch, because there are a multitude of resources to keep you busy for a while! Just kidding about the lunch, but not the resources.
They have everything from books to journals to online resources. Not sure where to start? Head to the reference librarian’s desk and be ready to be amazed (I’m not kidding).
I think our public libraries are a great free resource for small businesses in general. Take advantage of them. And yes, you actually can save gas and skip the physical trip to the library by logging into their database from your computer. But, why would you?
Taking a Business Plan Class
At Startup to Growth, LLC, we teach Business Plan Boot Camps, with new classes beginning monthly. For five class sessions, either online or in-person, participants work on their businesses in a team environment with input from the other small business owners in the group. We also invite speakers – attorneys, accountants, bankers, marketing professionals – to answer questions.
We generally mix newly-minted entrepreneurs with experienced small business owners who have been in business for a while but have never written their business plan. The enthusiasm of the startups together with the experience of the existing small business owners is a winning combination.
Hiring Someone to Write Your Plan
There are small business professionals who will write your business plan for you. They vary dramatically in price and in experience.
Check with other professionals in your area for referrals – for example, attorneys, accountants, bankers, small business insurance firms or marketing professionals. Look at your Chamber website.
When you have done your research and narrowed down your list, interview the person you have in mind and check out their credentials. Even if you are working with a larger firm, I urge you to interview the specific business plan writer you will be working with.
Make sure you put your agreement in writing. And you’re not done yet! I believe YOU should be an integral part of this entire process. Set aside time to have meetings and touch base throughout the business plan writing period with the professional you hire.
No matter which path you choose to complete your business plan, be smarter about your business planning process. Get it done and have some fun along the way. Remember, this is all about you!
About the Author
Robin Suomi, MBA, is the founder of Startup to Growth, LLC. Her passion is helping small business clients move from concept through growth (many surpassing $1M in sales), unleashing their vitality, innovation and creativity as they launch or grow their successful and sustainable companies according to their vision. Robin will soon launch a How to Start Your Business Successfully online course, which will educate potential small business owners about starting their own business. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.