A detailed business plan is fundamental to the success of any commercial venture. Some entrepreneurs view a business plan as primarily a tool to help secure financing, but it can and should serve a much broader purpose. Even if you’re a small business owner who doesn’t intend to seek outside funding, developing a plan can help you more carefully analyze the industry landscape, the competitive advantages of your products and services, and the specifics of how your company will function, including your marketing strategy and operational and financial targets. It can serve as a valuable road map to help your business achieve its goals.
Following are a few tips for getting the most out of your planning:
• Know your brand: Your business direction will be shaped by how you define your brand and your core values. Maintaining a clear message and direction for the company as you outline your strategy for the future will keep you from being distracted by opportunities that aren’t a good fit.
• Be honest with yourself: It’s great to dream big, but knowing what challenges and threats you may encounter will help you work through scenarios before they arise. Putting your analysis down on paper – especially the scary parts – will force you to consider your situation more comprehensively and prepare more realistically.
• Craft a compelling executive summary: The detail in the plan is essential, but you also need a good overview to quickly introduce your company to outside parties. The summary often serves as a key qualifier for time-pressed executives such as investors or other potential partners, so it needs to be strong. Write the summary last to make sure it’s an accurate synopsis of the more in-depth information in the body of the document.
• View the plan as a living document: Review your business plan at least every year, and adjust it as appropriate to reflect altered circumstances. Updating your road map regularly will keep it top of mind and help make sure you’re heading in the right direction. Be honest in assessing your company’s outcomes and the potential need for changes. Being flexible is essential for the survival of any small business.
Beyond ensuring that your operations get off to a smooth start and support your long-term goals, a business plan can save time in decision-making and help your company prioritize the allocation of resources. It can provide a structure for navigating internal challenges by establishing a clear protocol. It also works as a report card: Is the business hitting the proposed milestones? If not, how can the plan be reworked to address the limitations you are facing?
There is no substitute for having a solid and adaptable plan for your small business. Relationship managers at WTB are here to help make sure the banking services you use align with your plan. For more information or to connect with a relationship manager, please visit www.watrust.com/business/products-services/small-business
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Washington Trust Bank