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Small Business


How do I build a winning business plan?

Successfully funded business plans unveiled...

business plans, sample business plans, business plan

Using sample business plans and their structure, along with studying as many business plan examples as you can, will provide you with the necessary framework to consider your business from every possible angle.

Starting or running your business without a business plan is akin to being a human without a skeleton!

Not only will using a sample structure highlight any areas you haven't fully thought through, but it will also provide you with a good idea of what makes a good business plan, and what doesn't.

The importance of your business plan as a motivational factor in running or starting your business cannot be underestimated. You will find that your commitment continues to build as you collect information, research and write each section.

Your business plan should always accompany requests for Small Business Loans , and lenders or any kind of angel investor will simply refuse to consider your business proposal without one.

Lenders and investors want to see your plan with the aim of satisfying key questions before they make their decision to grant funding or not.

Once you’ve commenced trading your small business plan will act as a steak in the ground, and help you measure where you expected to be against where you actually are. It will help you take corrective action as necessary.

Sample Business Plan Structure

All plans should include at least the elements listed below, and perhaps additional sections depending on the type of industry.

Executive Summary
Company Background
Products or Service Overview
Unique Selling Proposition and competitive advantages
The Marketplace
Leadership and management profiles including professional competencies
Professional Support
Risks and Threats assessment
Financial forecasts including key assumptions
Relevant appendices

Collecting the information for all the sections is time consuming and sometimes difficult. The business section of your local library is always a good place to start research. Ask your friendly librarian about how to look up market research reports, and how to investigate competitors.

If you are not familiar with spreadsheet software, constructing the necessary financial forecasts represents a significant hurdle. You have 2 choices:

Pay someone to put part or all of the plan together for you, or a small investment in some business planning software.

The advantage of using a professional is you will receive the benefits of their experience, combined with a professional looking plan.

The disadvantage is that it won’t be easy to make changes, and more importantly, because you will not have been as involved in its preparation, you won’t be as familiar with its contents as you should be. Make sure to learn the contents well.

One final tip though, remember it’s the quality of the information you put into it that determines what comes out.


Writing a Business Plan: Why It Is Worth the Time and Effort

Are you unconvinced that you need to prepare a Business Plan? You should be because there are many benefits for both you and your business.

writing a business plan, why write a business plan

Are you thinking about approaching a Bank for finance to support your business? If you haven’t already gone to see the Manager then you may not know that the first thing he will want to see is your Business Plan.

Perhaps you are not convinced that all the time and effort needed in preparing a plan is essential; if so then here are the main benefits for both you and your business.

1. No matter how good a communicator you are, you will never be able to convey your vision for the business as successfully as a perfectly put together Business Plan. It provides a clear understanding as to what you want to achieve. It allows you to express your ideas in a clearer manner.

2. Too many times business owners try to sell their idea verbally and at the end of the interview with the Bank the Manager is none the wiser than he was at the start. I think you can guess the outcome of many of those requests!

3. A Business Plan will help convince both you and the Bank of the project's feasibility and viability. There's nothing like having all the facts in front of you to clarify the key issues

4. There’s no getting away from the fact that a business owner who plans ahead comes across as being more ambitious and more focused. A well prepared Business Plan demonstrates you have vision and that you know what you want

5. With numerous ideas floating around in your mind, the pitfalls or stumbling blocks to success are never that visible. A mind buzzing and full of ideas will rarely achieve clarity. A Business Plan forces you to put your ideas down in writing and in an orderly manner. The result of this could be you going in a completely different direction than you initially thought of, or even abandoning your idea altogether. Not a pleasant thought, but which would you prefer? The loss of your hard capital or the opportunity to re-think your idea?

6. It is an ideal tool to monitor progress against the objectives you have set yourself (we will cover objective setting later). By checking progress against your Plan, you will be able to spot if you are moving away from your original vision and so you will know what has to be put right

7. Imagine if you didn't have this check in place; an unnoticed change in direction or a slippage in achieving your objectives, if left uncorrected for too long, could be fatal to your business. On the other hand, it may transpire that a shift from your original vision could be a better alternative, but at least recognising this change allows you to adjust your course in a planned, structured and controlled manner

8. Every action you take has a consequence, and a Plan helps make these consequences much clearer. Being aware of the possible effect of your chosen direction allows you to plan ahead, leaving you better able to cope with whatever the world of self employment can throw at you. This is one thing that "mental planning" would not achieve

9. Putting your thoughts on paper may make you realise that you need to do more research on the demand for your product or service. It could also highlight that more investigation on your competitor's products or services is needed. Additional research could help avoid a potentially costly mistake or even uncover a hidden advantage, which you had not seen before!

10. A Plan will guide you as to how much money is needed to make an idea work. In your mind you may have a rough figure of what you’ll have to commit, but until you do a Cash Flow Forecast you may not realise that an overdraft limit will be required, in addition to a loan for your equipment. If the mention of preparing a Cash Flow Forecast brings you out in a sweat, don’t worry as later in the book I’ll be showing you exactly how to do one

11. A Business Plan will help you get funding. One of the main reasons Banks turn down requests for loans is a lack of information to assist in making an informed decision. If the Manager doesn't have enough knowledge about your idea or business then he won't feel comfortable enough to support you. He has to understand your business before he can say yes. Some time in the future he may have to justify to his superiors why he lent you the money, so he needs as much information as possible to back up his decision. A Business Plan will make him feel much more at ease and so more able to say yes

12. By the time you have finished writing your Business Plan you will have a total understanding of your business; its strengths and weaknesses, the environment it operates in, what could potentially go wrong, and what you can do to ensure your success. Doing your planning on the back of an envelope is not going to achieve this

You should realise by now that it's essential to have a Business Plan; it could be the difference between success and that dreaded "f" word - failure! It's all about understanding the importance of planning ahead.

Spend time putting your thoughts on paper in a structured and logical manner. It will pay you dividends, both in getting the Bank to take you seriously and securing the future of your business.


Starting a Business – What is a Business Plan?

This article deals with key decisions involved with starting a business and the advantages of having you own business. Furthermore it throws light on the various kinds of business structures and how a successful business plan should be laid out.

Starting, Business, Plan, Start, Decision, Structure

So you've decided to start your own business - congratulations! It's a huge leap from letting someone else take care of taxes, accounting, payroll, inventory, and/or a myriad of other activities necessary to run a business. However, running your own business has its advantages, too. You get to be your own boss, set your own hours and days to work, and are responsible for your own success. It can be a great way to free yourself from the tedium of 9-5 and work at doing what you love, but you have to begin by asking a few questions:

1. Are you doing what you love, or just doing something you’re good at? A desire to get away from the regular working world can be a good motivation to work for yourself, but you have to be excited to get up in the morning to do what it is you have chosen to do for a living.
2. What is it you are planning to do? What niche is it going to fill? Is there a need for what you can provide? Will the market bear another entry?
3. What technical skills or talents do you have? Just being able to do something may not be marketable enough to convince customers or financiers that you are a good financial investment.
4. Who are your competitors in your chosen profession and how are you going to do it better? Why should customers come to you? What do you have to offer that no one else does?

Once you are satisfied with the answers to these questions, it is time for the decision of what kind of business structure you will use. Will you be a sole proprietor, responsible for every facet and the penultimate authority as to how to run the business? Will you enter in with a partner, the better to share the cost and workload, but also the profits and the business decisions? Perhaps the decision will be made to incorporate, with its financial safeguards but more complex and costly structure? At this stage, legal advice is recommended, if only so that you fully understand the advantages and disadvantages of your chosen structuring plan. Many lawyers will provide a free or reduced-rate primary consultation, though often not more than an hour. When the structure is finalized, a name for the business should be decided upon, if not already having been done so in advance. It should be easy to remember, avoid initials and single letters (B & L & R, Inc. will be difficult to remember for customers) and try to say something about the business (Bob’s House of Hobbies is easier to remember and spell).

Next, a business plan is a vital step in laying out all these topics and proposals in a standardized format. A good business plan serves as a formal statement of the new company’s goals, financing, structure and legal considerations. It acts as a “resume” to prospective investors and is the primary documentation they will use to evaluate whether or not your business will be worth investing into. It also provides the proprietor(s) with a chance to see the workings of the new business in black and white. A basic business plan should at the least contain a balance sheet, income statement and statement of cash flow, as well as a proposed financial budget for the first year, or as long a period as necessary if a year is impractical.

So with these quick tips, plan for success, and good luck in your chosen endeavor!


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