For many entrepreneurs the creation of a business plan is the biggest hurdle in the development process of their fledgling enterprise. There is a mystery, almost a dread in many people when discussion of a business plan requirement is first broached. They conceptualize a boring, dry, painful experience and many would like to avoid this step if at all possible.
What is a Business Plan?
A business plan is a document that qualifies, quantifies and narrates a commercial opportunity. It is that simple to state, more difficult to execute, but anyone can customize a business plan that gets results. The plan must have an exciting Executive Summary. Like the opening scenes of a movie, or the first chapter of a book, the writer must set a hook.
Typically, active investors, angels, venture capital groups and investment bankers are deluged with business plans. Screeners typically read the document before passing along to decision-makers within the firm. However, very few move along the decision making food chain precisely because the Executive Summary lacks excitement, punch or sets a high level of anticipation about what is inside the document.
Having written dozens of business plans for clients I can attest that creating a plan that works is, well, work. No two plans are alike. The plan must be customized, well researched, structured and direct. I receive more than 500 business plan submissions annually in my consulting firm. Less than 1% have commercial potential as written. Many describe products, services, retail or new business development ideas that otherwise might be exciting. However, the plan does not convey that potential.
One of the worst things to evolve from the arrival of the inter-net is the ability to download a business plan template and write the document by filling in the blanks. The template itself is not problematic, I use a self-developed template when I customize plans. The problem is that many entrepreneurs do not have the writing skills, the research in hand, know the keys that turn on investors and thus, take shortcuts. Filling in the blanks without sweating the details and doing comprehensive research results in a document that will not be read and an opportunity that will never launch.
Rule number one in the development of any commercial opportunity: shortcuts equal failure!
I am a self-taught business plan writer. If I can do it, anyone can. In reality, however, most people just want to expose their opportunity to investors, licensees or potential partners. They don’t have writing skills, do not know the types of research necessary to support the plans sales model, need help in creating the marketing strategy, and will never be able to narrate financials.
Where can they go to create and exciting business plan document.
The following are resources readily available in most communities. Many are free.
Many colleges, community colleges and universities have developed small business incubators. They attract additional state funding, as small business growth and development are keys to job creation and an increased tax base. Take advantage of this community asset. Students, graduate students and professors are often available to direct your efforts. Ten years ago there were only a handful such programs. Today, over 1000 schools have some version of an entrepreneurial program.
Many states, regional and local governments offer business development programs. They have retired business people and mentors on hand to support, guide and train prospective entrepreneurs and guide business plan creation. There is no charge for utilizing this service, after all, your tax dollar supports these programs.
SCORE, the Service Core of Retired Executives is a Federal Government sponsored initiative. Thousands of retired, experienced business people make themselves available to evaluate commercial opportunities and direct the development and launch of those deemed to have potential. They are often intimately involved in creating business plans.
The Ewing Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, MO is devoted solely to the development of entrepreneurial development. Mr. Kauffman started, nurtured and developed Marion Labs from a tiny drug local company into a multinational, multi-billion dollar powerhouse. He also owned the Kansas City Royals baseball team. His devotion to developing and promoting the entrepreneurial base of the United States resulted in creation of the foundation that bears his name.
Seek out a consultant. Typically consultants charge a fee, just like lawyers, accountants or plumbers. The advantage of an experienced consultant is that they write business plans for a living, will be strong writers, able to properly direct or perform research, narrate financials and differentiate a commercial opportunity by creating an exciting word picture. Always seek references and talk to several before deciding on a consultant.
Why Do I Need a Business Plan?
You might not. You might not need a deeply customized business plan if you are seeking to license or sell an invention, a patent or a prototype product. In this situation, the potential licensee would take your work product and develop a plan that fits their internal organizational needs.
However, if you are attempting to fund a start-up business, self-market a product or buy a small business you will absolutely need to create a road map. That road map is your business plan. The map is not linear, there will be curves and setbacks, but by quantifying, qualifying and narrating a well- researched, customized business plan you are much closer to success