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Writing a Business Plan that Works for Your Small Business
-October, 2011

 

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Fall is a great time to reorganize your small business and make plans for the future. One of the best ways to keep your business on track is to write and follow a business plan. Writing a business plan can take a considerable amount of time to develop to only find it later collecting dust in a file cabinet. Take a look at a few different types of business plans that will not only be useful but help you to see your business differently and achieve greater growth and profit.

Start-up Plan
For new businesses, the start-up plan outlines how the business will move through the first 12 to 18 months of operations including the steps a new business will take before opening as well as after the company is open. Included in the start-up plan will be requirements for opening such as licensing, permits, anticipated goals and milestones, real estate leasing, initial marketing needs (such as logo development, stationery, branding efforts, packaging, and advertising) and funding. Of course, the plan should also include a projected balance sheet, a profit and loss and sales projections for the first 12 to 18 months. The start-up plan should be modified and revisited monthly or even weekly and include actual versus projected figures and other details pertinent to the business’ success. Because the plan is often used to apply for bank loans and other funding opportunities, it should include as much concrete financial data as possible as well as any applicable appendices, management’s resumes, and detailed projections. For formal business presentations to funders and even vendors, you may also wish to create an electronic presentation using software such as PowerPoint.

The Mini or Abbreviated Business Plan
A mini business plan, usually 10 pages or less, is a compact and shortened version of the full business plan. Even though the mini plan is condensed, particular attention should be paid to cash flow, sales projections and marketing plans. Mini plans can be very useful for testing a new product or service and determining if it will mesh with your overall business goals as well as sales projections and marketing initiatives. For some projects, a one-page plan can be concise and outline the features, benefits, and cost analysis necessary to take the project to the next step. The shortened plan also allows for a more frequent check with regular business figures to compare projections against actual financials to make sure the business is tracking as expected. The mini plan is NOT a good fit for long-range planning or to secure financial backing or loans.

Internal Use Plan
The internal use only plan, also called the working plan, is a great tool for daily business operations. As this type of business plan is intended for management’s eyes only, it is acceptable to use company lingo and a more informal language. Using outline format and bulleted lists is also acceptable and can be a useful way to remind management of goals and important milestones. Since the internal plan is a working document, you can eliminate management and owner resumes, product photos and other non-essential information. The plan’s brevity doesn’t mean that the details should be concise. Rather, the more details and accurate financial information, the better the plan will serve your business.

Strategic Plan
Often written as part of the internal plan, the strategic plan typically focuses on a specific business unit or area of the company. For example, many businesses often write a strategic marketing communications plan as part of the business plan. Suzie’s Cupcakery sells product at a small downtown retail location, but also offers overnight delivery of their tasty treats via an online storefront. To promote her products, Suzie created a strategic marketing plan including a:

  • Dynamic web site with links to
    1. - a blog about cupcakes,
    2. - a Twitter page, - a Facebook page with advertising, and
    3. - a YouTube page with step-by-steptechnique instructions
  • Paid media advertising effort Public relations campaign
  • Direct mail effort w/coupon incentive and,
  • One or two advertising specialty items for customers

The marketing communications plan will outline details of key marketing tactics such as paid advertising, social media, internet / web site, community events and public relations initiatives. Timelines and budgets for each of these efforts should also be included as well as any projected sales resulting from the marketing communications efforts.

Growth Plan
Similar to the strategic plan, the growth plan usually focuses on a specific business area, product or service line. Plans outlining growth can be internal or external in nature depending on the business needs.

Feasibility Plan
Often used to test new ideas or products, the feasibility plan is similar to the start-up plan in nature. It can include an executive summary, mission/vision/values statements, a basic market analysis, outline of projected costs, pricing and potential expenses related to the idea or product launch. A local nonprofit may write a feasibility plan regarding the creation of a new service line that could also generate potential income for the organization. In the plan, board members charged with approving the plan would find details about how the new service line would operate, the staffing required, additional expenses including office space, equipment and materials, and a projected timeline to achieve break-even and profitability. Through the plan and subsequent face to face meetings, the nonprofit leadership needs to reassure its board that the new business concept aligns with the mission of the organization and can sustain itself financially.

While small business owners are stretched thin covering many aspects of their business, writing a business plan can help to clarify ideas and ensure that all angles of a new business venture have been carefully considered. To learn more about writing business plans and how a strong business plan can help when seeking funding, talk with a Fiducial Advisor by calling 866-Fiducial