On occasion I’m asked whether or not I’ll help someone write a business plan. I am often left feeling like I should say yes, and needing to defend my answer of “no”. For a long time I have focused on how much it would cost the small business owner to have me do it for them. In my opinion, when you are first starting your business, you need to reserve as much cash as possible. It will take at least twice the amount of money and time as you think it will take to get started and you will need the cash to keep a roof over your head. By the way, STOP spending $5,000 on a website before you even get started! Start with a basic stock site and upgrade to a more sophisticated site later when you are making money. But I digress…
As I was asked again today “Will you help someone write a business plan?” I took my usual stance of no, it costs them too much. I was then asked, under what circumstances would I say yes? I gave my list of criteria and reasons. I started to realize that disguised under my resistance is my belief at a very core level that if you really want to be a business owner, it is your responsibility to create your own business plan. I also believe that until you have actually gone through the process of trying to put your business idea down on paper and explain what your vision is to yourself you will never be able to explain it to someone else. Not me, not the bank, not your future employees and certainly not to your potential clients. You need to live and breathe your business plan. Try to estimate what your sales might be and how much it will cost to fulfill those orders. Write down where you going to find the people who want what you have and who those people might be. Most importantly is to create a projected cash flow so you can see how long you can survive on your current funds while you are trying to get your first clients. Assign numbers to your vision and figure out how much it is going to cost you to get this baby called your business born. The research you do in the beginning trying to put your financial plan together will only make you a stronger business owner.
If you are just starting out and you have never written a business plan the SBA website has an incredible amount of free information. I will caution you not to go crazy and bogged down in the process; your business plan is for you to work out the details of your business. You will change your plan, modify your plan and update your plan as you find what works and what doesn’t work the way you thought. It is not something you will ever finish.
By the way, if you have been in business for a while and you haven’t looked at your business plan lately, now is a good time to dust it off and dig in to see how you’re doing.
You do have a business plan don’t you?