9 Tips To Help You Prepare A Successful Business Plan
Now more than ever, people are choosing to open their own businesses in Canada.
No matter what industry you’re in, it’s crucial that you prepare a business plan. Doing so will help you clearly define your objectives, set reasonable goals, manage cash flow, and decide on your priorities.
And, since 9 out of 10 new businesses and startups fail, taking the time to prepare a business plan helps you land in that coveted 10%.
But what does it take to create a solid business plan?
Read on to find out.
1. Come Up With The Perfect Name
Before you even begin to prepare your business plan, you need to select a dynamic name for your business/brand.
Your name is the foundation of your business. It instantly communicates to your target market what you offer, helps boost your brand recognition, and establishes you as an authority in your industry.
A few tips for finding the right name?
First, the shorter, the better. It’s better to get to the point as soon as possible.
If you’re going to use your own name in the business name, it will be important to use font, colour, and a logo design to make it clear to consumers what your business is all about. Remember to keep these designs consistent in your web presence, as well as on your marketing materials.
Finally, you need to ensure that no other business is using your proposed name. To check, use our Free NUANS Preliminary Search.
If someone else is using your proposed name, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. If not, be sure to register your business as quickly as possible.
2. Set Realistic Goals
Now that you’ve come up with the perfect business name, your next step is to clearly define your goals and benchmarks.
When you’re ready to prepare a business plan, it can be tempting to focus on the big picture. More often than not, however, this leads to setting goals that aren’t realistic. For example, if you don’t yet have any clients, how are you going to make $50,000 in sales in your first quarter?
If your goals are too lofty, it communicates to investors and anyone else you show your plan to that you haven’t done your research and that you’re not experienced enough.
While it is important to have a larger picture in mind of what you want your business to achieve, you need to include the steps you’re going to take to reach that bigger goal.
Discuss your strategies for growth and your goals within the next year, 3 years, and 5 years in your business plan.
Also, keep in mind that your goals don’t have to be focused solely on the numbers.
Intangible goals, like “I want to disrupt the current market in my industry,” or “I want to become a top authority that sets market trends” are just as important as the more quantifiable goals.
3. Tailor Your Plan Towards Your Target Market
One of the most important pieces of research you’ll do when it’s time to prepare a business plan is getting to know as much as possible about your target market.
If you don’t know their interests, needs, pain points, and even how they behave online, you’re going to have difficulty connecting with your target markets.
Create social media accounts for your business and get to know your target market’s demographics. What age range will you primarily serve? Are you in a B2B market, or are you selling directly to consumers?
How will your target market impact your advertising strategy? What steps will you take to continually ensure your business keeps pace with their needs and changes with them? Do you have plans to expand your target market over time?
These are all questions that your business plan should answer.
4. Define Your Budget
This is a tricky subject that requires lots of research, and certainly a willingness to be flexible.
You may not have an exact number when it comes to potential profits and operating expenses, but it’s important that when you prepare a business plan, you prove you’ve done your research.
It’s a smart idea to speak with potential vendors in your area, and get an idea of the expenses associated with manufacturing your product or running your business. Figure out approximately how many employees you’ll need at the start, and how that number will increase as your business grows.
More than hard-and-fast numbers, it’s important to make it clear what you’ll be spending your money on when you open your business. For example, you have to pay your employees, but their exact salaries may be influenced by your profitability.
When you do include specific numbers, you need to make it clear why they’re so crucial to the success of your business. Numbers without context don’t tell anyone anything.
5. Identify Your Competitors
Many business owners don’t think they need to start researching their competitors until after they’ve opened the doors.
This is a huge mistake.
Now is the time to start finding out what you’re up against, especially within the local market. Look at how your competitors advertise, as well as the target market they serve.
How do you plan to compete?
Plus, understanding where your competitors have failed in the past ensures that you won’t make the same mistakes in your business.
To that end…
6. Explain How You’re Different
Think back to when you first came up with the idea to start your business.
It’s likely that your idea came out of a specific need that wasn’t being fulfilled within the current market.
When you prepare a business plan, you need to make it clear why you started your business. What sets you apart from your competitors, and what pain points are you fixing for your customers that others aren’t?
This is the moment when your past work experience, and even your personality, can come into play. This is also the time where creating an overall mission statement becomes especially important.
Your mission statement should be a concise explanation of what inspired you to start your business, and how you plan to help your target market. It should tell the story of your company and connect with your market by speaking their language.
Most of all, you need to communicate your passion for what you do.
7. Keep It Industry-Specific
When you prepare a business plan, it’s important that the information, data, and ideas you include are specific to the industry you’re working in.
This might sound simple, but you need to go above and beyond to prove to potential investors, employees, and lenders that you’re familiar with the potential pitfalls in your industry.
Even if this is your first foray into a new industry, explain how your past work and business experience is relevant. Don’t try to distract with fancy charts, irrelevant data, and rambling sections about the “current state of business.”
Avoid generalizations. Speak simply and with authority to prove that you’ve done your research.
8. Recognize Potential Risks
Remember what we said at the start of this article. Unfortunately, many businesses do fail.
It’s important to communicate in your business plan that you’re aware of the potential risks and common pitfalls associated with your business. You should also include how you plan to mitigate these risks.
However, keep in mind that when you prepare a business plan, you also need to highlight where you’re willing to take risks. If you’re just following the status quo, your brand is doing nothing to disrupt the market, and is not different from your competitors.
Rely on your professional background to help you recognize areas of risk in which you feel comfortable operating.
9. Ask Someone To Review It
Finally, just because you’ve finished writing your business plan doesn’t mean it’s ready to go.
Make sure you review and edit it (there’s nothing less professional than numerous grammatical mistakes). Additionally, ask others to take a look at it. Do your goals make sense? Have you communicated your enthusiasm? How could the plan be improved?
Second and even third opinions will help you to catch mistakes and fill in gaps that you wouldn’t have been able to notice on your own.
Ready To Prepare A Business Plan?
Now you know what it takes to prepare a business plan that will set you up for success.
However, this plan is just the beginning.
Understand what steps you’ll need to take next, and ensure that you’re aware of any licensing requirements.