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Successful Business Plan – Simple Techniques for Writing Your Own
The very first business plan I ever wrote was praised by the Small Business Development Center counselors and loan officers and immediately accepted and forwarded to the local SBA representative for approval. And no, I didn’t use canned software.
When I realized a business plan would be needed for my small business startup I scoured the Internet and read books and was so intimidated by all the required financial reports I put it aside for two years. But I knew a business plan was going to be a necessity if I was going to get serious about my business idea.
It took me only three weeks from beginning to end and was about 15 pages long. And it contained every single required report. How did I do it? I scoured the Internet for information. I did searches on business plans and compared several outlines against what was recommended at the SBA’s (Small Business Administration) web site. What I quickly discovered was that there was one generally acceptable format that contained very specific essay and financial reports.
At first glance it looked so daunting. But I was so tired of the corporate grind and I wanted so much to have my own business that I pressed forward. I took it one step at a time.
One of the required items was the business description. Within that section was to be a description of the competition. Easy. The reason I knew my idea was a winner was because there was very little competition in the immediate and surrounding area. I simply did a short write up describing those businesses and added a quick comparison showing how my idea differed from and improved upon those existing businesses. One section was completed.
That wasn’t so hard. Maybe I can do this. With newfound confidence I forged ahead to the next section. Marketing. More specifically defining my target market. Who was my customer? I was going after the wedding industry’s customer base. So I hopped on the Internet and went to the census bureau’s site www.census.gov and did a search for marriage statistics in my state. From that I was able to determine how many people had gotten married in recent years. I wrote a few paragraphs about that info.
Two sections down with just a few more to go. It wasn’t such an insurmountable task after all! I realized the essay portions could be written in such a way that I was able to summarize my information into a few concise paragraphs for each section.
The secret to the essay portions was to use an exciting voice with very descriptive adjectives. I wanted to grab the reader’s attention and see why I was so excited about this business. I especially took great care to write the Executive Summary as a brief, but stimulating and provocative attention grabber. (It is extremely important to hook the reader from the get go so they continue on with the rest of the plan.)
The financial statements were just as easy to tackle. The first thing to do was the assumptions. To do that I simply took the selling price of my service (or product) and determined how much I would make in sales per day, week, month and year. That basic information was the basis for the remaining financial reports.
For example, the Cash Flow Statement is simply a detailed “budget”. You take your monthly sales assumptions and add any other incoming “cash” (loan dollars for example) and subtract your expenses. Carry over any extra (or loss) to the next month until you have populated the statement for 12 months. Voila! Another section completed.
Three weeks from start to finish.
When it was completed I took it to the local SBDC office (usually housed in community colleges) for their review and advice. They were floored that I had completed it myself without software. And better yet, they loved it so much they said it was good to go. They suggested local banks that were favorable to start ups and off I went.
The loan officer was equally as impressed. She said that she normally did a quick glance and rarely read entire plans, but was so captivated by the opening Executive Summary that she asked me to wait while she finished reading. She immediately agreed to forward it to the SBA representative for approval. That was an exciting moment indeed!
Why didn’t I just use a template or ask the SBDC or SCORE folks to do it for me? Because it was my baby. I was going to ask for funding from a bank and I felt that I needed to be aware of every minute detail of the plan. This way I could, with full confidence, defend the data should questions arise. I also reasoned that if I couldn’t get this one item taken care of, then maybe I had no business being in business for myself.
Don’t let this one item keep you from realizing your dream. You can do it too!
About the Author: Sylvia Talo has authored the step-by-step manual, “You Can Write Your Own Successful Business Plan”, now featured in the One Stop Business Start Up Kit. Visit her web site http://smallbusinessstartup.biz/ a One Stop Site to help you start your own small business.