DO A BUSINESS PLAN: Why it's so important
Ugh writing a business plan sucks. Most people who have been told to write a business plan have likely googled "Business Plan Templates" and stared at very boring looking and loooong documents. Nothing about a business plan template looks like something that would be fun or exciting to do. I imagine most people do them simply because banks, investors and grant applications require them. I also know most of you will likely just nod along with this article, say to yourself "Maybe I should do a business plan" and then get bogged down on all the millions of other things that need to get done to start a busines instead. I get it. Things that aren't mandatory get shuffled to the bottom of the to-do list.
But hear me out on this. I wouldn't even bother writing this post, knowing full well that most people won't follow my urging, unless I thought it was so important that if even ONE person decided to do a business plan, that it's worth it. Taking the time to do a business plan early on in establishing your new business can save you thousands of dollars and countless hours.
The biggest benefit is that a business plan helps tighten your focus and your ideas. Getting a lot of requests to participate in charity events? You'll be able to look at your business plan and see if each charity that requests your time fits into your brand image and message. If it does- go for it; if not, there will be others. No back and forth and no over-extending yourself, you can easily decide which organizations and events are worth you making the time and spending the money on each year. And by choosing two or three events or organizations only you will feel more passionately about the ones you do participate in. (Watch for a post discussing this specific topic coming soon). Same goes for trade shows or events. There are a TON of events you can try to be a part of to expand your customer base. However it's important to make sure these events will have a high number of your target market attending so you'll get your money worth. Who is your target market? Why? A business plan will force you to zero in on who this is. For example, The Sundog Festival in Saskatoon has a very high volume of attendees each year. But if you own a business selling a natural alternative to body building supplements only 1 or 2 out of every 10 people who walk by your booth might be your target market. This will likely end in a waste of significant time and money.
A business plan also forces you to think through the logistics of some of the plans you've made for your business. If you're planning to offer free delivery your business plan will help you figure out how that will work and what it will actually cost you to offer this service. Without examining this idea closer you put yourself at risk of offering something you don't actually have the time to do or that costs may more in gas than you had expected. These little things eat away at your margins and should be planned for carefully.
Trail and error will teach you these things about your business. But if you do a business plan it will dramatically lessen the chances of "error" and all these errors cost you money. Better to plan ahead now, rather than being forced to reveiw later when your business is suffering.
If you have a partnership within your business a business plan is even more important. When we did our business plan for The Local Kitchen it took us probably two or three months to complete. But what we found out about eachother was honestly invaluable. It really educates you about your business partner(s) and saves you possible disagreements later when the stakes are higher.
Ok that's it. I'm not going to harp on it.
If you need help with your business plan you can get set up with a business advisor through Square One or Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan. Square One is free, it's a non-profit government assisted program. WESK has an annual membership of $125 but you get access to some really awesome seminars and workshops for a reduced price with that membership. You can read more about WESK here: https://www.womenentrepreneurs.sk.ca/membership/membership2.html. Your advisor will walk you through the business plan process and help with areas that seem intimidating.
You can also come chat with us at The Local Kitchen. We're not business plan experts but we would love to talk about what we learned doing our business plan and help however we can.
(Just do a business plan, ok? Ok NOW I'm done.)