This is the first installment of a new series, Business Plan Basics! Let’s be honest here — business plans tend to get a bad rap. We think of them as being lengthy, boring and filled with marketing jargon. But remember, business plans don’t need to be overly corporate. If you’re not seeking outside funding, you can have as much fun with the design and content of your business plan as you want. Think of your business plan as a roadmap to keep you focused and inspired to continually grow your company.
Here’s Why You Need a Business Plan
In the beginning, when you’re starting up a new small business in a creative field, it’s often a direct mirror of you. Chances are that you’ve created a company to share your particular talent or obsession with the world. But over time, you’re naturally going to evolve from who you were when you first began your business. While your target customer might have been an idealized version of yourself early on, that’s not always going to be the case. Because of this, it’s important to stay in touch with the purpose of your business so that you don’t veer too far off the path.
We can usually keep an eye on short-term goals and judge whether we’re on track. But, it’s the long-term vision that can get muddled. A business plan makes sure that you’re focused on the long haul and thinking about the big picture.
Part #1: The Executive Summary
An executive summary is usually 1 to 2 pages in length and provides an overview of your business. This section usually starts out with an elevator pitch — you should be able to sum up exactly what your business is about in 1 sentence. If you’re having trouble getting going, think of it this way: if you stepped into an elevator with someone you’d never met before and had 10 seconds to tell them what you did, how would you explain it as quickly and concisely as possible?
Next, it’s time to dig into the meatier part of the summary:
• First, address the issues in the marketplace that you’re trying to solve. Your point of differentiation here is what makes your business unique from your competition.
• Also include details of when you started your business and why.
• Next, include specific milestones that you’d like to hit with your business. List short-term (1 year) and long-term (3 to 5 years) goals.
• Think about what you’d like your revenue to be and include this as well.
The Executive Summary is meant to be an overview of your business plan so keep it tightly edited and memorable! Next week, we’ll be covering the second part of your business plan, The Vision. See? That wasn’t so bad! —Shauna
Business Plan Basics is a six part series that makes developing a business plan a painless process.