This is the crux of several client issues that I’ve been working through this week: While each client has a great idea, all of it is in their head, on sticky notes, and buried in emails and notepads – not exactly the formula for success, as there’s no structure. Three times this week alone I’ve been asked to work up a coaching plan and marketing plan, but each time when I ask, “Do you have a business plan?”, I get a blank stare or response followed by, “Do I really need one, I’m not taking a loan to start this venture.” For some budding entrepreneurs, they believe putting a shingle out is good enough or “if I have a nice brochure, people will gobble up my widgets.” Not so fast! When you’re taking a long journey, most will agree you need a roadmap. Business adventures are exactly the same, and your business plan is that map; without it, you can expect aimless, misdirected results, not to mention a considerable waste of your startup resources.
Perhaps one of the simplest and best resources for information on creating a business plan can be found at the Small Business Administration website. It’s loaded with information, but just to give you a rundown of things you can expect to include, check out the Edward G. Jones Business Plan Checklist. Be mindful though, part of the key to putting a good, reliable business plan together means being frank with yourself in every way. Another key? Doing the work yourself or at least collaborating tightly with the person that is writing it for you. A good business plan developer will leave no stone unturned and some of their questions might even sting a bit; however, the exercise is designed to help you see past the “pie in the sky” and get down to the brass tax. They should ask the uncomfortable questions that a “dreamer” might not want to even answer. It’s critical to go through this process, as it will reveal much to you and let you know right up front what can potentially happen. Some find that after completing the plan, their great idea is no longer viable, or is downright unprofitable. It’s definitely a reality check, however, it’s better to find this out ahead of time, versus risking financial disaster by financing something that never ends up getting off the ground.