Guest Column: A business plan is essential on many levels when getting started – Albert Lea Tribune

Guest Column by Dean Swanson

A potential new small business CEO emailed me this week and asked for help in writing a business plan because she needed to give it to some potential funders for her new business that she is developing and they “want a complete plan.” She wants me to send her a model plan so that she can draft one before she meets with a SCORE mentor.

Dean Swanson

Although I have written about this topic before, I will restate some of my comments because this is a very common request. And rightfully so because a business plan is very important to your business success. I remind CEOs that the most important thing about the plan is the process that it forces you to do to complete the plan.

Writing a business plan gives you an opportunity to carefully think through every step of starting your company so you can better prepare and handle any challenges. While a thorough business plan is essential in the financing process, it’s helpful even if you don’t need outside financing.

Creating a business plan can:

• Help you discover any weaknesses in your business idea so you can address them before you open for business.

• Identify business opportunities you may not have considered and plan how to take advantage of them.

• Analyze the market and competition to strengthen your idea.

• Give you a chance to plan strategies for dealing with potential challenges so they don’t derail your startup.

• Convince potential partners, customers and key employees that you’re serious about your idea and persuade them to work with you.

• Force you to calculate when your business will make a profit and how much money you need to reach that point, so you can be prepared with adequate startup capital.

• Determine your target market and how to reach them.

Laying out a detailed, step-by-step plan gives you a blueprint you can refer to during the startup process and helps you maintain your momentum.  SCORE has some templates that will be very helpful with this task.  I will email one to any reader who wishes to use it.

What this business plan template includes. Writing a business plan for a startup can sometimes seem overwhelming. To make the process easier and more manageable, this template will guide you step-by-step through writing it. Per the reader’s request, I will include a very comprehensive one and the user can use all or parts of it. The template includes easy-to-follow instructions for completing each section of the business plan, questions to help you think through each aspect, and corresponding fillable worksheet/s for key sections and several worksheets to use in the process.

After you complete this template, you will have a working business plan for your startup to show your SCORE mentor.

The business plan sections covered in this template include:

• Executive summary

• Company description

• Products and services

• Marketing plan

• Operational plan

• Management and organization

• Startup expenses and capitalization

• Financial plan

• Appendices

The appendices include documents that supplement information in the body of the plan.  These might be contracts, leases, purchase orders, intellectual property, key managers’ resumes, market research data or anything that supports assumptions or statements made in the plan.

The last section of the template, “Refining Your Plan,” explains ways you may need to modify your plan for specific purposes, such as getting a bank loan, or for specific industries, such as retail or manufacturing.

This template was developed by SCORE in cooperation with one of its content partners, the Deluxe Corporation, that has sought to create the tools that help shape our economy. Since 1915, Deluxe has recognized the vital role that small business plays in our communities, from job creation to business development.

Readers that wish to have me send them this template should email me at the SE MINNESOTA SCORE: [email protected]  and request a copy of this business plan template for start-up businesses.

Do you want to increase the odds that your business startup will be a success? Once, you have completed your draft of this plan, contact me and I will find a mentor for you to review and refine your plan and help guide you through the start-up process.

Dean Swanson is a volunteer certified SCORE mentor and former SCORE chapter chair, district director and regional vice president.