Friday, September 7, 2012

OK, you've convinced me. I need a plan...

Where do I even start? I know I need to get a business certificate or something and tax stuff, but then what? How do I put this plan together? What should be in it? Lots of questions!

There are basically two types of business plans. The first is a short summary. It includes all of the key information. There are two parts, the first of which takes a look at the market, summarizes it and how your business will be formed. The second part summarizes your plan for how the business will operate including manufacturing, accounting, marketing and financials.
Here is an example of a short, summary business plan: . 

    1. Executive Summary
    2. Company and Technology
    3. Customers
    4. Market
    5. Industry Analysis
    6. Competitors
  2. PLAN
    1. Marketing/Sales Plan
    2. Research and Development (R&D) Plan
    3. Manufacturing/Engineering Plan
    4. Contingencies
    5. Financials
      1. Sources and Uses of Funds
      2. Balance Sheet
      3. Profit & Loss Statement
      4. Cash Flow
      5. Cost of Goods Sold

Just because it's a brief summary doesn't mean it is quick and easy to do. It looks pretty simple, and it kind of is. But you still have to do all of the research and planning. You just don't have to include it all in the plan. I prefer to use a more detailed business plan-I am a fan of planning for EVERYTHING-that doesn't mean you have to. Everything I am working with on this blog will follow a more detailed business plan. You can include as much or as little in YOUR plan. It's all about YOUR business and YOUR plan for success!

The detailed plan includes it all. I personally feel if you research and plan for everything, you will know what is coming at you and be able to better face the hurdles you will encounter.
An outline for a detailed plan looks something like this:

  1. Cover Page
  2. Table of Contents
    1. Brief Company Introduction
      1. Mission
      2. Location, size, history
      3. Overview of company capabilities
      4. Customers & past performance
    2. Product or Technology Description
      1. Brief description
      2. Present state of development
      3. Intellectual property status
    3. Commercialization Strategy
    1. Customers & End-Users
      1. How need is currently filled
      2. Distribution channel
      3. Demographics
    2. Buying Behavior
      1. Decision makers
      2. Basis for purchase decisions
        1. Frequency of purchase decision
        2. Features, advantages, benefits of competing products
    1. Market Definition
      1. Primary market
      2. Secondary markets
    2. Market Size and Trends - Primary Market
      1. Current total and served markets
      2. Predicted annual growth rate
    1. Industry Definition and Description
      1. Relevant SIC
      2. Current industry status
        1. New products and developments within the industry
    2. Legislation and Policies Driving This Industry
      1. Future and historical trends
    1. Indirect Competitors
    2. Direct Competitors
      1. Who are they?
      2. Strengths & weaknesses (product features, management team, financial resources, sales & distribution)
      3. Market share of competitors
    1. Marketing & Sales Objectives
    2. Current Customers (if appropriate)
    3. Potential Customers
      1. Customers targeted for intensive selling efforts
      2. How other customers will be identified & qualified
      3. Product features to be emphasized and how to contrast with competitors
    4. Pricing
      1. Basis for targeted price point
      2. Margins & levels of profitability at various levels of production & sales
    5. Sales Plan
      1. Sales force analysis (reps, distributors, direct)
      2. Sales expectations for each salesperson & each distribution channel
      3. Margins given to intermediaries
      4. Service & warranties
      5. Organizational chart for sales/marketing staff, indicating planned growth for 3 years
    6. Advertising
      1. Year 1 - Plans for trade show, press releases, direct mailings, advertisements
      2. Year 2 - 5 (general)
    7. Sales / Marketing Budget
      1. Assumptions
  10. R&D PLAN
    1. R&D Objectives
    2. Milestones & Current Status
      1. What remains to be done to make the product marketable?
    3. Difficulties and Risks
    4. Staffing
    5. R&D Budget
      1. Assumptions
    1. Objectives
    2. Use of Subcontractors
    3. Quality Control
    4. Staffing
    5. Manufacturing / Engineering Budget
      1. Assumptions
    1. Staffing Objectives
    2. Organizational Structure (phased over 3 years)
      1. Introduction of management team
      2. Key individuals to be recruited and plans for doing so
      3. Board of Directors
      4. Incentives for commitment
    3. Human Resource Budget
      1. Assumptions
    1. Potential Risks:
      1. R&D delays, funding delays, etc.
    2. Alternate Scenarios
    1. Financial Objectives
      1. Commercialization strategy
      2. Use of funds
      3. Terms & conditions of any previous financing arrangements
    2. Analysis of Potential Teaming Partners
      1. Who are they?
      2. Basis for selection
      3. Strengths, weaknesses, benefits
    3. Projected Profit & Loss Statements
    4. Projected Cash Flow Projections
    5. Projected Balance Sheet
    6. Alternative Return Scenarios
    7. Exit Scenario
  15. Appendices
  16. References
As you can see, there is a lot more to be done there. It's really not more work than the simple plan-it's the same work. It's just what is included in your actual written plan.
There are TONS of websites out there that will help you write your plan. Outlines will vary a bit by whatever source you are following and that's just fine. Find the one that fits you best.

One more push on the SBA... If you trace the SBA down through to your local area you will often find a local chapter or Small Business Development Corporation. These agencies are usually affiliated with local colleges or universities and will offer free or very low cost classes on everything and anything business related. Often there are on-line class systems and information you can access in your pajamas if you want to! Time to start working!! Find out what's available in your state.

For those of you in NY There is a wealth of information and classes offered by the SBDC! USE THEM!  

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