The Three Main Elements Of Business Planning

Every day, millions of businesses spring up, both online and offline. These businesses run the gamut of categories, from spas to sneaker stores, accounting firms and accessory websites. Business planning is the first step in creating a secure future for your company.

Creating a Plan For Your Business

Writing a plan is the first stage of business planning. As the name suggests, a business plan is a roadmap for the direction of your company. While many owners fail to write such a plan, it is an essential step in the growth of your company. It helps you to forecast and problems that may develop in the course of business. Think of it as a contingency plan. If you are planning to apply for commercial real estate or bank loans, you will need to demonstrate proper planning for your business.

A business plan contains several main elements. First, it lays out the mission and the goal of the business. The plan will spell out whether your company is in business to serve a greater good or simply to fulfill an unmet need. Determine whether your business will serve other businesses or supply products to consumers. These are all important elements that should be included.

It does not have to be long or overly complicated. It simply has to have the elements required to put your goals into action. Developing a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) will help you to identify problems before they start. Craft your own or hire a business writer to create a dynamic plan that will guide your operations. An effective plan is one of the most important elements over overall business forecasting.

Creating a Marketing Plan

Similar to a business plan, the marketing plan spells out how you will market to new customers and retain current ones. The marketing plan should identify your target customers and develop a strategy to reach them effectively. Your marketing plan usually includes market research that gives you a profile of the ideal customer. As with your other plan, it is important to identify any strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that may affect your company’s operations.

Your marketing efforts do not have to be expensive. In many cases, companies that don’t have marketing plans spend more than is necessary to reach their customers. With a plan that will spell out the ways you will market your company, you will save money and energy on your business marketing efforts. Creating an effective marketing plan is one of the most crucial elements of planning for your business.

Succession Planning

Unless you plan to run your business for your entire life, you will need a plan of succession. If you are the only person who can run and operate your company, it is doomed to fail when you can no longer run it. Create a plan that will spell out what steps will be taken to either sell your company or hand it over to another manager. Develop a system that allows your business to be run without you. An operations manual that details the key components of running your company is the first step in succession planning. Consult an attorney about the legal aspects of either selling or transferring ownership of your company.

Planning is an important element of any successful company. By adequately planning for the direction of your business, you will enjoy business profit and success.

A Sample Business Plan for a Small Business May Not Be the Best Way

You can find a sample business plan for a small business in all kinds of formats. There is a sample business plan for a small business where you basically fill in the blanks or you can have access to a sample business plan for a small business where you can pattern yours from it or you can develop a business plan that is centered on what you want for your dreams and your life.

I don’t know of better way than to let your business give you what you want for your lifestyle. Whether it’s a sample business plan for a small business or one where your business gives you a plan, it should tell you what is needed to take you where you want to go and when and how you can get there and it should be in clear simple terms, supported with all the specifics.

So using a sample business plan for a small business is just one of many ways to make a business plan but frankly I think designing one that will have your business give you exactly what you want is by far the best way.

So, why not start out with what you would like to have in life for you and your family? Then develop a business plan that could show you exactly what your business would need to do to give you that life style. If you think about it, there is no other way where you have more control over what you want in life than letting your own business do it for you. If you work for someone else, you’re sure not going to have as much control over your future.

So how would you go about making a plan like this? Well if you know a fair amount about business, you can. It will take some special calculations and some work but if you know how to put together a Profit & Loss Statement, you can probably do it.

You would first do a P&L for the present year for your existing business and the first year and as many years after as you would like to have your plan cover. Your existing business financials will be the foundation for building yourself a business plan for as many years out as you want. This data will tell you a number of things but first if you want to build your plan around what you want in life, you would need to decide some things about your life:

1. You would need to decide how much income you would like to have for yourself for each of the years you plan for.
2. You would need to determine what kind of profit margin you would want from your business for each of the years.
3. And by combining these 2 things into a P&L format you can develop a financial business plan that can extend as for into the future as you would like.
4. The first thing it will show you is how much sales you would need each year to give you the income and profit you would like. Once you see the sales needed, if you know your business well enough, you should be able to estimate those additional expenses needed to overcome capacity constraints that will occur as your business grows.

With this information you can actually predict not only what your sales will be, but you can see how much your fixed and variable expenses will be, what your labor cost will be, your material cost, and your profit.

1. So let’s first look at what exactly are fixed expenses? They are exactly what they say they are; they are fixed. This simply means these are expenses that are ongoing whether you have a lot of sales or “0” sales. They are expenses like utilities, taxes, rent, salaries other than the wages used in the making of the actual product or doing a service, business fees, telephone, etc. See how these expenses would continue on even if you have 0 sales? Any expenses that fall into this category are fixed expenses. Far too many small business owners never divide their expenses into fixed and variable. As a matter of fact, if you could have a business that had “0” fixed expenses; this would be the best of all worlds, why? If you had “0” sales, you would have “0” expenses. So the closer you could get to this the better you would be.

2. Variable expenses are those expenses that track directly with sales. If sales stop they stop. These are expenses like supplies used to support in the making of your product or doing your service. Such things as shipping cost for raw materials for your product or service. If you have no sales then you’re not going to be purchasing materials so your shipping cost for those materials will stop as well. As an example, if you have a lawn mowing business and there are no lawns to mow, then you wouldn’t be buying gasoline to travel to your lawn mowing site. These kinds of things are variable expenses. If you’re producing a product, it would include supplies used to produce that product like sand paper, glue, finishing materials, cutting tools, etc.

3. Labor and material costs are also directly proportionate to sales. These are things that go directly into the making of the product or into doing the service.

a. Labor cost is the actual direct labor used in the making of product or doing the service. The cost would also include all the fringe benefits like social security, payroll taxes, vacation pay, holidays, sick pay days, etc.
b. Material costs are all the materials used in the making of product or in doing the service. In the lawn mower service as an example it would be the gasoline used in the mower and any other materials used directly in that service. For producing a product it would be all the materials used in the product that is sent to the customer including all the packaging materials.

Average Selling Price

Now when you calculate your average selling price which is your cost of sales (material + labor) divided by (1-gross profit), you can determine how many customers you would need and then come up with what you think your conversion rate would be for converting leads to customers, you can determine how many leads you would need. Then from this and with the aid of the U.S. Census Bureau and some basic research on your own you can actually have a pretty decent idea of what size your market is and is going to be in the future so you can see if it will support your business plan or not.

So if you can put this all together, you can have a complete business operating plan that would show you exactly what your business would need to do to give you the income and profit you would like to have and a rough idea whether your market would support it or not. All you would have left to do would be to figure out how to make it all happen.

It’s like planning backwards.

1. Determine what you want in life
2. Figure out what your business would need to do to give you that life.
3. Figure out how long it would take you to reach it.
4. Figure out how big of a market it would take each of the years you’re planning for.
5. Then see if that market is big enough.

Isn’t this a much better way to go about planning your business? Shouldn’t your business be designed to give you want you want instead of you working yourself to death just hoping for the best?

So how would you go about calculating all this?

There is quite a bit of calculations and you should know a little about business principles but it isn’t that complicated. So first let’s look at figuring out your future needed sales with this formula:

Projected sales = fixed expenses divided by (1-(var exp % of existing sales + mat cost % of existing sales + lab cost % of existing sales + desired net prof %))

So, let’s say you existing sales is $850,000 annually, your fixed expenses are $275,000, variable expenses is $55,000 or 6.5% of the $850,000, material cost is $236,000 or 27.8%, labor cost is $109,000 or 12.8%, and your existing profit margin is $175,000 or 20.6%.

Now let’s say next year you want to have a profit margin of 25% so what would your sales need to be to give you that profit margin? Now you might think you would simply tack on 4.4% more to sales (25% – 20.6%) and you would have it. Well not quiet. it doesn’t work that way because you are going to have the additional variable expenses, material cost, and labor cost too. Remember, the more sales the more each of these expenses and cost will be.

So here is how you would do it:

Projected sales = fixed exp ($275,000) divided by 1-(6.5% + 27.8% + 12.8% + 25% (your new profit margin) = $896,057 (new sales)

You can do this for as many years out as you want. Obviously this is based on your first year’s fixed expenses remaining constant and no consideration of depreciation, inflation, or taxes.

But most likely you would need to increase your fixed expenses because you’re going to probably have more rent, utilities, or such as your business grows. So, you would simple put in your new fixed expense number in place of the existing one for each of the years you would be planning for.

So, you see if you decided you wanted a 35% profit margin at year 5 then you could see how much sales it would take to give you that.

Now it’s also important to know how many more customers you would need as well so you should always look at that unless you have another way of growing your sales other than with new customers.

Let’s say your average selling price for your service is $925.50 and you have one transaction per year per customer.

Using that first years sales example we used above, you would calculate it this way.

$896,057 divided by $925.50 = 968 customers needed for the year. Now if your average transactions per customer are more than 1, then you would need fewer customers. As an example, let’s say your average transaction per customers per year is 2.5 then 968 divided by 2.5 = 387 customers per year.

Now let’s say you estimate your conversation rate to be 3% of turning leads into paying customers with the advertising method you’re going to use, how many leads would need to contact to get 387 customers? Simply divide 387 by 3% and you get 12,909 leads you’re going to need to contact.

Then the question is; is your market going to be big enough to provide you with 12,909 leads for the next year and how many will you need each of the following years?

It may be easier than you think to figure this out. You would do some research and with the aid of the U.S. Census Bureau you can roughly determine whether your plan can be supported by your market or not.

So what do you think? Is it better to build a business plan around what you want in life then see how your business can maybe give you that or is it better to use a sample business plan for a small business where you are probably guessing?

I’d love to help you some more. Please go to http://www.StrategicBusinessSolutionsLLC.com and see what might be available.

Business Plans Are a Team Effort – Think Outside The Box

Business plans are mostly about organizing, formalizing, and committing to a specific plan-of-actions. Such a document generally presents the objectives, strategies, analysis, and a detailed roadmap for implementation. Underlying a plan-of-action is comprehensive analysis of historic, current and proposed results all supported with assumptions. If anyone doubts the interest in business plans, a Google search returns more than 62 million and Amazon list more than 77,700 titles concerning this subject.

They are like fingerprints; no two are alike, even within the same organization. One further point, opinions about what makes a good finished product are like noses-everybody has one. The ones that work and prove to be executable are the best. With this in mind, let me offer my views about business plans at a macro level having written a sizeable number of plans for internal and external applications. One other point, a business plan can build a team quicker than any formal team building activity.

I have written business plans for all manner of industries: a coin operated jukebox company, airlines, travel companies, new product launches, and anti-aging product companies. It is not necessary to have a passion for the product or the company to write or develop a business plan. What you must have is a passion for aggregating information, getting involved with and understanding the service or product, and understanding the financials of the product or service. By financials I am not referring to having a CPA before you undertake the task, but rather understanding the presentation of the information and analysis/ numbers to support the activity being planned. Financials are important because they are the score card in the world of commerce.

There are many reasons for utilizing such a document. Is the final document going to be about implementing a decision already having been reached or is it about analysis and recommendations for a newly proposed activity. As noted above, a finished document may be for internal or external purposes. Externally they are often used to solicit funding for a start-up or joint venture. Whatever the purpose, do not confuse effort with say, a marketing or a production plan.

I mentioned the financial aspect of a plan earlier, so let me add this. Another fact about financials to consider: not all business activities are about making money. Point being, in most enterprises financial considerations are centric to the document. But there are some other considerations. For example, a few years ago I wrote a plan for a new subsidiary that was focused on developing an inventory of patents. The potential financial returns were years into the future. Those patents may or may not ever have commercial value. Another example is a non-profit enterprise that has need for a complete roadmap for growing their profile in a market, of which a marketing plan would be the centerpiece.

If a document needs to be developed that requires input from other disciplines-Finance, HR, Property & Facilities, Marketing, Procurement/Supply Chain- then most likely you are looking at a team building effort to get the job done.

In any event, don’t look at the task as only as a roadmap that leads to a profitable product or enterprise. Business plans are a great way to build team buy-in, force a thorough review of options, define objectives, establish benchmarks to judge performance, and help arrive at a plan-of-action. Ultimately, it can lead to a Project Management approach to implementing a plan and that can be as involved and detailed as is necessary.

Another consideration. Should the business plan be a document that is focused on selling an idea for a product or service? For many years I worked in a company that did not want anything in a business plan that could be construed as showing a bias towards or against a project. The mantra was to only present facts in the business plan. The Operations Research Department was there to review the analysis as being unbiased. To handle the “what if” scenarios or sensitivity analysis we prepared a supplemental analysis documents which were mostly financial oriented. Personally, I like a factual approach and use the presentation of the final document to point out the conservative aspects of the content.

Here is a recap of where we are in this discussion:

  1. Business plans formalize an understanding of the task with appropriate analysis leading to a plan-of-action.
  2. Not all business plans are for profit motives.
  3. Business plans are for an enterprise effort and not focused on disciplines/departments, e.g. Marketing plan, sales plan, HR plan, supply chain plan, etc.
  4. Business plans are a great vehicle to build a team effort.
  5. Plans can be utilized for formalizing metrics relative to achieving goals and performance measurements.
  6. Some complex plans might include a Project Management professional.
  7. There are internal and external audiences for business plans. Most external focused plans are for outside funding of projects.
  8. Be mindful of the ‘tone’ the plan projects to the reader. Tone refers to the impression a person gets from reading the plan; a subliminal feeling about the plan.

Organization and content of the business plan will evolve as it is prepared. For example, if the driving force of the plan is marketing or sales then a preponderance of the analysis and plan-of-action section will be more up-front and sales oriented in tone. With business plan’s the world is your oyster; think from the center out to the edges and think outside of the box.

Why Hire Business Plan Writing and Editing Services?

There can be many ways to approach the writing and editing of a business plan. We will discuss some of the basics about the structure and content of a good plan. One of the keys to creating a great plan that meets the needs of investors, banks, and even grant providers, is to make sure that you understand your business well, whether it’s a start-up company or one that has been in operation for many years. Professional business plan consultants help owners, directors and founders to develop a better understanding of their business in order to assist in providing answers to questions that will create a solid business and financial plan for any purpose.

Business Plan Templates and Outlines

Most experienced business owners strongly recommend hiring a professional plan writing company to create a business plan. They have learned a lot in all their years in business and know that it is important to hire experts in their fields. Companies that are reputable and have been creating plans for many years are the best options. Often, when someone attempts to create their own plan, it can take months to complete if it even gets completed at all! Professionals know how to move through a plan template or outline and fill it in with pertinent and well-written information.

So, what are the key sections of a great plan document? Well, there are many opinions to this as well as ways to approach it, but there are definitely some key ‘ingredients’ to a solid plan. A great plan features all the typical main sections, but also has many refinements not found in the average plan. The main sections recommended include a clean, well-designed cover page, table of contents, cover letter, executive summary, business overview, sales and marketing section, operations section, HR section, action plan and financial section with tables for – at the very minimum – expenses, revenue, and cash flow projections. Within these sections, a professional writer creates many headings and lots of writing that describes every aspect of the business in very good detail. On average, most business plans end up being about 25 to 35 pages in length.

Plan Creation Process

Typically, the process for creating a business plan goes like this: The client discusses their business with the writer and pays a deposit. The writer starts immediately on the business plan by creating an initial layout and inputting all the known information. This is followed by compiling a list of basic questions for the client to answer in point-form related to the details of the business. These questions are usually easy to answer within a day or two because clients already know the basics about their business. The writer then receives the answers and uses the information to create sentences and paragraphs and fill in the plan’s content. Once the written parts are done, the writer will work with the business owner and a financial expert on the financial tables that will go at the end of the plan.

Timelines

Timelines vary greatly for creating a plan depending on the writer’s experience, the business type, the detail required, and how much industry and market research is necessary. There may also be other factors. In most cases, however, a detailed plan can be created within 2-3 weeks.

Plan Costs

Business plan writers and companies charge very different amounts for their services, ranging from as little as $500 to as much as $5000 or more. A good pricing model is based on the factors mentioned earlier, such as length, complexity, research required, etc. Generally, $500 is not enough for a plan because of the many hours that go into creating one, and $5000 is way too much for clients to pay. That being said, a good, well-written and professional document of about 30 pages in length should be more in the range of $900 to $1500. This pricing structure is very reasonable considering that most of the work can take more than 50 hours to complete. In terms of an hourly rate, most professionals charge between $25 to $35 per hour.