Before you even begin writing your business plan, what do you intend for your business? Businesses are founded on dreams. Dreams such as having a secure life, developing never-before-seen products or services, spending one’s working life doing something worthwhile, answering a need in the marketplace and so many more. To make your dreams live and breathe, there has to be an easy-to-use plan.
Not a dull, multi-page monstrosity
Running a successful small business depends on having a clear idea of what is going to happen over a set period of time. Imagine a business plan that was up-to-date and easy to use. You can return to it any quarter, any month, any day to stay focused and motivated. It contains the basic elements of a business plan plus active goals and measurements that tell the story of how your business is progressing.
The basic ingredients
Since it is a business plan, there are certain elements that will better focus your efforts:
- Executive Summary-Provides the direction and purpose of your business
- Goals and Objectives-Typically a ninety-day action plan of three to five succinct, realistic, measurable goals, the responsible person for overseeing each goal and how they will be achieved
- Services and/or Products Offered-List what you are really offering and which of these are your real money-makers
- Target market-Describes your ideal client. Monitors if this person changes over time
- Marketing Strategies– Identifies which of the strategies you are using
- Financials-Provides objective evidence of how your business is performing and includes a profit and loss report, a balance summary and a cash flow analysis
Putting these elements in writing provides you with an intimate knowledge of how your business lives and breathes. One key piece of writing a living business plan is to keep it as short as possible. Even with the financial reports, you are much more likely to use it if your written plan is five pages or less and contains bullet points.
The most necessary section of the living business plan
Goals and Objectives is the part of your business plan that will draw you back time and time again. These goals are more pertinent when made up of these sections:
- Specifics Name what must be done
- Measurement Clearly identify how much or how many
- Deadlines Give yourself a timeline or a date to finish the goal
- Accountability partner Ask someone who can both believe in you and tell you the truth so you stay motivated to complete the goal
Write these goals in a format that makes sense to you. One client I worked with preferred to write her goals in a mindmap format. She felt the flow of the chart mirrored her preferred way to think and her real-life efforts. But others have used an outline form with success.
Give your dreams a leg to stand on
Too often business owners write a plan for their bank or an investor and then let the plan moulder in their desk or in a forgotten file on their computer. A living business plan is entirely about how you work. It exists so you stay focused as you lead and manage your business. It is so easy to get sidetracked by the day to day grind, exciting opportunities or negative events. Take your dreams seriously and use a living business plan as your personalized path forward.
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