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Approaching the Business Plan with a Plan for Quality
Business plans are vehicles carrying information about the means and methods for achieving success. Though it does not guarantee success, it is a well-defined path for identifying and analyzing the various elements of a successful business, including the market statistics, the competition, customer demographics, operational strategies, and so on. However, any vehicle can veer off-track which in the case of the business plan means it may not attract desired investors or it fails to serve as a true roadmap for ongoing operational success.
The question is: Why?
Too many business plans are treated like question-and-answer tests requiring short essay answers. They are usually business plans that relied on a template or had no input from business professionals who understand their broader purposes. High quality business plans do not rely on fill-in-the-blank information nor do they copy the plans of other businesses. They need to be unique, well thought out, address the essential elements of the particular business, include data relevant to the particular business, and make clear progress from beginning to end in describing how the business will startup or expand, and achieve sustainability.
Professional business plan developers are like vehicle drivers. They invite the entrepreneur to climb on board, and together they develop a one-of-a-kind business plan with real meaning and one that can serve a number of purposes like the following:
• Create a unified approach to business success – The quality business plan is not composed of separate sections. It is a document in which each piece of information smoothly builds on what came before it. The marketing plan fits the business mission and goals; the management section makes sense in light of the operational plan; and the financial section reflects everything presented before it. When the plan flows, it ensures the entrepreneur understands how one business factor affects another.
• Secure capital – Entrepreneurs who need investors or lenders to supply capital need to make sure the business plan includes content that appeals specifically to each one. It should address plans for sustainability and growth. It also needs to fit the investor’s requirements. It is usually necessary to develop more than one version of the business plan when it is submitted to various investors or financial institutions because each one should have unique content of interest to the particular funder.
• Translates vision into a realistic mission – It is natural to be excited about a new business idea. However, the entrepreneur’s vision needs to be translated into a realistic business plan. The wording does matter. Being excited about an idea is good but not a convincing argument for success. The business plan needs to stay focused on the realities of starting and operating a successful business within the context of a well-defined mission.
• Identifies markets and competitors – Businesses do not operate in a vacuum. They operate in ever-changing markets where competitors come and go. It is critical to develop strategies that address market segmentation, current and potential competitors, changing market conditions, and performance measurements. This information helps the entrepreneur keep the business on the right path no matter what obstacles appear in the road.
There is an old saying that about not blaming the messenger when the news is bad. A poorly developed business plan is like a messenger carrying bad news. It is easy to unfairly blame the messenger when the entrepreneur has difficulty achieving goals like securing needed capital or realizing a business vision. The business plan that will deliver good news is one that carefully addresses the goals of the business in every way.
Entrepreneurs should always get professional assistance when developing a business plan. Experienced business professionals have a broader perspective, an understanding of what investors look for, and knowledge of the elements of a successful business.
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