“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”
– Benjamin Franklin
How to write a business plan:
- Keys to Success
- Company summary
- Market Analysis
- Strategy and Implementation
- Financial Plan
Easy, right? At university, it usually took us two days to prepare a business plan. We were given a week to make up a fictional business and prepare a presentation to our class… so we went to party for the weekend, sobered up on Monday, agreed on the topic over coffee on Tuesday, brainstormed on Wednesday and got the whole thing done by Friday morning. ‘Thank you team! Excellent work! It’s visible that you have actually given this thought and worked hard on the assignment’. Really? We did? I never really understood how we could get away with such an excellent result with so little effort. Writing a business plan is easy. You write down your thoughts, make it sound fancy, look fancy, spice it up with buzzwords like ‘Chart’, ‘SWOT Analysis’, ‘BCG matrix’, ‘Cost Analysis’, ‘Competitive Analysis’ and there you go – straight As in Strategic Management. I never really took it seriously, I rather concentrated on the subjects that were more challenging and required a great deal of effort to complete.
Well… this time it took me two months and it’s still not complete. I took my notes from university, a book, the internet and I researched each and every point. One of the first articles I came across was discussing that your business plan should not be too long – “No one wants to read through 30-40 pages” the author claimed. Well, I think he is partially right. No one would, but you. Mine is 57 pages long. Only Husband read it through – thank you, love! But the goal was not to astonish anyone by being able to write a dissertation on my future company, but to make sure that I cover all possible aspects of a business, to think and re-think and write down so that I can look back and think again.
I read numerous case studies from different industries, especially from brands that inspire me. I find it extremely motivating to see how the ‘big ones’ do it and what I can use in my micro environment. The buzzwords I used during my university assignments were given a completely different meaning here. They became the tools to drive the thinking. My main source was Kotler and Armstrong’s Principles of Marketing. This book covers all aspects of strategy development: how to capture customer value, how to build customer relationships, analyzing the marketing environment, buyer behavior, helps you design a customer-driven strategy, pricing strategies, sales strategies and a lot more.
You know what they say – Your heart is where your focus is, so my business plan became the air I breathed. It came with me to my morning walks and evening runs, to the tram, sometimes even to boring meetings at work. And this proved to be helpful. When I talked to my father about my idea – he was astonished. When I talked to investors, they could basically not ask me one question that I could not answer and that was not fully covered with a plan in my head. I have a very pretty 18 page brand book – which is the shortened version of my 57 pages plan. THE PLAN. I use it as a brochure for the people I need to convince about whatever they need to be convinced about. It’s a small gesture, but very powerful!
If you ask me, I know it’s very tempting to rush, you can do a business plan in a week and start the ‘real work’. But I think if you take your time and think, use the tools of strategic management to guide your focus, this process will make you confident. And that will come in handy. Everyone asks you questions: the designers, the manufacturers, the investors, your family, your friends, your teachers. Everyone. And they are not interested in your big plan that will get you on the cover of Forbes as you claim. They are interested if you have it all figured out. If you can be trusted. If you are not wasting their time by talking into thin air. Trust me, good professionals will not waste time if they sense b-shit and uncertainty. They wouldn’t risk time, money and reputation if they see that you, the founder, the brain behind the company are not complete. You wouldn’t either, would you?