The longest journey starts with a single step.
And the first step in starting your own business should be to draw up a business plan.
A good small business plan is critical to the success of any enterprise.
Whether it is a formal document or written on the back of a cigarette packet it is an essential first step on the road to building your small business.
Even though we in Ireland are coming out of one the worst economic situations that has ever prevailed here, many people are still intent on setting up their own small business.
Your plan can take many forms but most people are agreed that there are a few critical areas which must be addressed.
1. Overall tone of your small business plan
You need to be clear and concise with your plan with clear objectives/goals and a clear strategy.
It should be factual, not aspirational, and easy on the eye with plenty of white space.
The summary should be able to convey in a few sentences your strategy and goals and highlights the positive parts of your plan.
You need to think of the elevator pitch ie can you describe your plan succinctly to a stranger if you met him/her in a lift and were travelling from the 5th floor to the 1st.
3. Description of the business
This part of your small business plan should set out clearly the industry, type of business, any company history, the legal structure to be employed, any trading history and your vision for the future.
You will need to describe the USP (unique selling proposition of your business)-if it has one- and how you will grow your product/service with realistic achievable goals.
4. Marketing and Sales
You will need to set out how you will market your business and obtain sales, your target market and how you will handle competition if and when the squeeze is put on your business.
You will need to show some solid market research in this section and demonstrate that you know the industry that you will be competing in.
5. Your People
This part of your plan will deal with your people, your key personnel and will include your professional advisors such as solicitor and accountant.
You will also outline any recruitment plans you have and set out your salary structure which will show also that you are planning for growth.
6. Your operations
This section will essentially set out how you operate your business and include the location of your business, any production facilities if appropriate and information technology systems which should be robust enough to accommodate your future growth plans.
7. The Financials
This section will include your realistic achievable forecasts, both of cash flow and profitability.
It will also be critical to outline any capital requirements you will have into the future and demonstrate that you have actually planned for the growth that you forecast elsewhere in your small business plan.
These are the essential parts of a decent small business plan and can obviously be adapted easily depending on your particular circumstances and individual requirements.
A good business plan should be an asset to you when you walk into any meeting with a financier/investor/bank and should reflect your professionalism and overall business approach.
Make sure that it reflects well on you and your company or fledgling enterprise.
By Terry Gorry