What Are the Functions of a Business Plan?
- Small Business
- Business Planning & Strategy
- Elements of Business Plans
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It's not one of "those" dirty words, but "business plan" has assumed a distinctive place in the vernacular of many small-business owners. They're told they need one, try to muster the enthusiasm to write one, but inevitably put it off – sometimes until someone in a position of authority (like a banker) demands one.
Of all the planning documents an entrepreneur is advised to draft, a business plan is arguably the most critical of all. The irony is that it's usually the one small-business owners end up consulting most often – not just in the early days but also as the business grows and confronts challenges the owner could never anticipate. You may be resisting the exercise, as business owners understandably do because they want to expend their valuable energy on selling and winning over new clients. It may be time to upend this paradigm and let the merits of a business plan sell you.
Embrace the Role of a Business Plan
For a document that can span (brace yourself) dozens of pages, every section of a business plan should go to the heart of addressing two crucial questions:
- What do I want to accomplish with my new business?
- How am I going to accomplish it?
The questions belie the depth of the exercise, for a business plan probes the structure, organization, management and processes of a new venture in great detail – or at least as much detail as the new business owner has at his disposal at the moment.
Two may be a lucky number because the successful entrepreneurs at SCORE , who mentor so many others, reduce the purposes of a business plan to:
- Providing a cohesive vision for a small-business owner. This road map keeps a business owner focused on the journey ahead by providing clarity and focus, steering away from diversions that tempt many entrepreneurs in the early days.
- Demonstrating to lenders that the venture is different from others in the workplace, primed for success, and otherwise worth the risk.
The U.S. Small Business Administration invokes the road map analogy, too, saying: "You wouldn't drive 2,000 miles without a map, so don’t start a business without writing a business plan; it's your road map to success!"
Owners Value Role of a Business Plan
Though well-intentioned, the advice sidesteps an important reality: Most entrepreneurs don't rely on a bank loan to fund their startups. According to Small Biz Genius:
- 32 percent use their own cash.
- 13 percent dip into their retirement accounts.
- 12 percent turn to friends and family.
Only 24 percent rely on loans, which suggests that the first function of a business plan is the more important of the two. Put another way, you may not need that road map when things are going well, but running a small business is nothing if not an adventure, filled with unexpected challenges, detours and the occasional accident. It's at these junctures that the road map becomes an indispensable guide to regaining your bearings and getting back on track.
A study of 1,000 entrepreneurs by the Harvard Business Review bears this out. It found that the most successful ones wrote their business plan within six and 12 months of deciding to start their own business. It's precisely when they are starting to sell and win over clients that writing the plan comes into sharper focus. The HBR found that committing a plan to paper increases a startup's chance of viability by 27 percent.
Business Plan Areas Cover the Bases
At some point, you may want to take out a loan to pay for new equipment or to fund an expansion. Then a business plan becomes a necessity. Until then, Nolo says it plays a role in the financial future of your business by:
- Analyzing the competition so it can outmaneuver it
- Outlining a winning marketing strategy and tactics
- Providing revenue and expense estimates
- Crystallizing how the business will turn a profit
- Anticipating risks and opportunities
- Forecasting its financial future
This is a wide load to superimpose on any road map, but it's a completely attainable one when you consider the format of a business plan advocated by the U.S. Small Business Administration . It sets you up for success with a sensible, nine section progression of ideas:
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Market analysis
- Organization and management
- Product line or service
- Sales and marketing
- Financial projections
Many business experts agree that a business plan should consist of at least 50 pages to cover these topics thoroughly. However, as with many undertakings, it's quality, not quantity, that matters most. This is why the Harvard Business Review says it found that those successful entrepreneurs devoted about three months to writing their business plan – a realistic amount of time to scrub this once dirty word from anybody's vocabulary.
- SCORE: What Is the Purpose of a Business Plan?
- The U.S. Small Business Administration: SBA Learning Center
- Small Biz Genius: 39 Entrepreneur Statistics You Need to Know in 2021
- Harvard Business Review: When Should Entrepreneurs Write Their Business Plans?
- Nolo: Why You Need to Write a Business Plan
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Write Your Business Plan
Mary Wroblewski earned a master's degree with high honors in communications and has worked as a reporter and editor in two Chicago newsrooms. Then she launched her own small business, which specialized in assisting small business owners with “all things marketing” – from drafting a marketing plan and writing website copy to crafting media plans and developing email campaigns. Mary writes extensively about small business issues and especially “all things marketing.”
What is the importance & purpose of a business plan, the four major reasons for new business failure, why is an effective business plan introduction important, the importance of a business plan, how to write a preface for a business plan, factors to be considered in business planning, the success factors of an entrepreneur, what are the elements to become an entrepreneur, definition of a swot analysis, most popular.
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- 3 Why Is an Effective Business Plan Introduction Important?
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The Top 5 Benefits of Having a Business Plan
Whether you’re starting a small business or exploring ways to expand an existing business, a Business Plan is an important tool to help guide your decisions. An effective Business Plan is a roadmap to success, providing clarity on all aspects of your business, from marketing and finance, through to operations, products, services, people and how you will be better than your competitors.
The purpose of a business plan is to help articulate a strategy for starting or changing your business. It defines how you will achieve your most important business objectives. A good Business Plan should help you to sleep at night if you are a business owner.
For existing businesses, a business plan should be updated annually as a way to guide growth and navigate expansion into new markets. Your plan should include explicit objectives for hiring new employees, what structure you will have, what products and services your business will provide, how you will promote them and how you will finance business operations.
If you are considering starting a business, a Business Plan can help you to check the viability of a business before investing too much time or money in it. It also provides insight on steps to be taken, resources required for achieving your business goals and a timeline of anticipated results.
The Benefits of Having a Business Plan:
1. Increased Clarity
A business plan can bring clarity to the decision-making process regarding key aspects of the business such as capital investments, leases, resourcing, etc. You can't do everything. A good Business Plan will help you identify business critical priorities and milestones to focus on.
2. Creation of a Marketing Roadmap
Marketing is an important aspect of a business plan. It helps to define your target market(s), target customers and how you will promote and place your product / service to these markets / customers.
3. Support for Funding
Whether you’re seeking credit from a bank or capital from investors, a business plan that answers questions about profitability and revenue generation is often required.
4. Helps to Secure Talent
For a business to succeed, attracting talented workers and partners is vital. Part of a business plan’s purpose is to help bring in the right talent, at the right time. Staff want to understand the vision, how the business will achieve its goals, and how they can contribute to this in their own roles.
5. Provides Structure
A business plan provides structure and defines business management objectives. It becomes a reference tool to keep the business on track with sales targets and operational milestones. When used properly and consulted regularly, it can help measure and manage your priority areas of focus.
Download your Business Plan template for $49.99 + GST here.
Many people engage us as business coaches to take a weekly / fortnightly step-by-step approach to the development of their own Business Plans, with the added benefit of our expertise and guidance throughout the process. In this way, you learn the essential aspects of running a successful business, while crafting your very own business plan over 8-12 weeks.
If you would like more information about how to create an effective Business Plan for your business, with our guidance, then please don't hesitate to contact Business Agility. We are business coaches who are former CEOs and MDs. We know what it takes to be successful in business.
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The importance of a business plan
Business plans are like road maps: it’s possible to travel without one, but that will only increase the odds of getting lost along the way.
Owners with a business plan see growth 30% faster than those without one, and 71% of the fast-growing companies have business plans . Before we get into the thick of it, let’s define and go over what a business plan actually is.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a 15-20 page document that outlines how you will achieve your business objectives and includes information about your product, marketing strategies, and finances. You should create one when you’re starting a new business and keep updating it as your business grows.
Rather than putting yourself in a position where you may have to stop and ask for directions or even circle back and start over, small business owners often use business plans to help guide them. That’s because they help them see the bigger picture, plan ahead, make important decisions, and improve the overall likelihood of success.
Why is a business plan important?
A well-written business plan is an important tool because it gives entrepreneurs and small business owners, as well as their employees, the ability to lay out their goals and track their progress as their business begins to grow. Business planning should be the first thing done when starting a new business. Business plans are also important for attracting investors so they can determine if your business is on the right path and worth putting money into.
Business plans typically include detailed information that can help improve your business’s chances of success, like:
- A market analysis : gathering information about factors and conditions that affect your industry
- Competitive analysis : evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors
- Customer segmentation : divide your customers into different groups based on specific characteristics to improve your marketing
- Marketing: using your research to advertise your business
- Logistics and operations plans : planning and executing the most efficient production process
- Cash flow projection : being prepared for how much money is going into and out of your business
- An overall path to long-term growth
10 reasons why you need a business plan
I know what you’re thinking: “Do I really need a business plan? It sounds like a lot of work, plus I heard they’re outdated and I like figuring things out as I go...”.
The answer is: yes, you really do need a business plan! As entrepreneur Kevin J. Donaldson said, “Going into business without a business plan is like going on a mountain trek without a map or GPS support—you’ll eventually get lost and starve! Though it may sound tedious and time-consuming, business plans are critical to starting your business and setting yourself up for success.
To outline the importance of business plans and make the process sound less daunting, here are 10 reasons why you need one for your small business.
1. To help you with critical decisions
The primary importance of a business plan is that they help you make better decisions. Entrepreneurship is often an endless exercise in decision making and crisis management. Sitting down and considering all the ramifications of any given decision is a luxury that small businesses can’t always afford. That’s where a business plan comes in.
Building a business plan allows you to determine the answer to some of the most critical business decisions ahead of time.
Creating a robust business plan is a forcing function—you have to sit down and think about major components of your business before you get started, like your marketing strategy and what products you’ll sell. You answer many tough questions before they arise. And thinking deeply about your core strategies can also help you understand how those decisions will impact your broader strategy.
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2. To iron out the kinks
Putting together a business plan requires entrepreneurs to ask themselves a lot of hard questions and take the time to come up with well-researched and insightful answers. Even if the document itself were to disappear as soon as it’s completed, the practice of writing it helps to articulate your vision in realistic terms and better determine if there are any gaps in your strategy.
3. To avoid the big mistakes
Only about half of small businesses are still around to celebrate their fifth birthday . While there are many reasons why small businesses fail, many of the most common are purposefully addressed in business plans.
According to data from CB Insights , some of the most common reasons businesses fail include:
- No market need : No one wants what you’re selling.
- Lack of capital : Cash flow issues or businesses simply run out of money.
- Inadequate team : This underscores the importance of hiring the right people to help you run your business.
- Stiff competition : It’s tough to generate a steady profit when you have a lot of competitors in your space.
- Pricing : Some entrepreneurs price their products or services too high or too low—both scenarios can be a recipe for disaster.
The exercise of creating a business plan can help you avoid these major mistakes. Whether it’s cash flow forecasts or a product-market fit analysis , every piece of a business plan can help spot some of those potentially critical mistakes before they arise. For example, don’t be afraid to scrap an idea you really loved if it turns out there’s no market need. Be honest with yourself!
Get a jumpstart on your business plan by creating your own cash flow projection .
4. To prove the viability of the business
Many businesses are created out of passion, and while passion can be a great motivator, it’s not a great proof point.
Planning out exactly how you’re going to turn that vision into a successful business is perhaps the most important step between concept and reality. Business plans can help you confirm that your grand idea makes sound business sense.
A critical component of your business plan is the market research section. Market research can offer deep insight into your customers, your competitors, and your chosen industry. Not only can it enlighten entrepreneurs who are starting up a new business, but it can also better inform existing businesses on activities like marketing, advertising, and releasing new products or services.
Want to prove there’s a market gap? Here’s how you can get started with market research.
5. To set better objectives and benchmarks
Without a business plan, objectives often become arbitrary, without much rhyme or reason behind them. Having a business plan can help make those benchmarks more intentional and consequential. They can also help keep you accountable to your long-term vision and strategy, and gain insights into how your strategy is (or isn’t) coming together over time.
6. To communicate objectives and benchmarks
Whether you’re managing a team of 100 or a team of two, you can’t always be there to make every decision yourself. Think of the business plan like a substitute teacher, ready to answer questions any time there’s an absence. Let your staff know that when in doubt, they can always consult the business plan to understand the next steps in the event that they can’t get an answer from you directly.
Sharing your business plan with team members also helps ensure that all members are aligned with what you’re doing, why, and share the same understanding of long-term objectives.
7. To provide a guide for service providers
Small businesses typically employ contractors , freelancers, and other professionals to help them with tasks like accounting , marketing, legal assistance, and as consultants. Having a business plan in place allows you to easily share relevant sections with those you rely on to support the organization, while ensuring everyone is on the same page.
8. To secure financing
Did you know you’re 2.5x more likely to get funded if you have a business plan?If you’re planning on pitching to venture capitalists, borrowing from a bank, or are considering selling your company in the future, you’re likely going to need a business plan. After all, anyone that’s interested in putting money into your company is going to want to know it’s in good hands and that it’s viable in the long run. Business plans are the most effective ways of proving that and are typically a requirement for anyone seeking outside financing.
Learn what you need to get a small business loan.
9. To better understand the broader landscape
No business is an island, and while you might have a strong handle on everything happening under your own roof, it’s equally important to understand the market terrain as well. Writing a business plan can go a long way in helping you better understand your competition and the market you’re operating in more broadly, illuminate consumer trends and preferences, potential disruptions and other insights that aren’t always plainly visible.
10. To reduce risk
Entrepreneurship is a risky business, but that risk becomes significantly more manageable once tested against a well-crafted business plan. Drawing up revenue and expense projections, devising logistics and operational plans, and understanding the market and competitive landscape can all help reduce the risk factor from an inherently precarious way to make a living. Having a business plan allows you to leave less up to chance, make better decisions, and enjoy the clearest possible view of the future of your company.
Understanding the importance of a business plan
Now that you have a solid grasp on the “why” behind business plans, you can confidently move forward with creating your own.
Remember that a business plan will grow and evolve along with your business, so it’s an important part of your whole journey—not just the beginning.
Now that you’ve read up on the purpose of a business plan, check out our guide to help you get started.
The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.
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A business plan is used to help manage an organisation by stating ambitions, how they will be achieved, and exactly when. The plan will also help summarise what the business is about, why it exists, and where it will get to.
Your business plan will serve as a key point of reference for investors, partners, employees and management to gauge progress against objectives.
Provide a road map
A detailed plan will help you as the owner and founder to manage your business effectively. Writing down and illustrating both your ideas and tactics will establish a path and course of action, akin to a road map. This will give you something concrete by which to monitor and assess the progress you make.
It may seem like an odd suggestion but you should look to work with your accountant on this task even at an early stage. Why? Well, a quality professional advisor will have helped many early stage businesses. Given how close a good accountant is to the operations and strategic direction of a company, they’ll be able to draw upon their experience of what’s worked and what hasn’t with other clients.
This means they’ll be well placed to help you test your assumptions. Remember you want your business concept to be as well thought through as possible. Having a fresh set of eyes reviewing your ideas from a different perspective could make all the difference as to the viability of your business model . An accountant will know what success looks like along with what’s required and when to achieve it.
In charting a potential course of action you may find your business is faced with multiple different potential paths. It would therefore be wise to plot the most likely scenarios and strategies for these different circumstances. If, for example, your business is heavily reliant upon exporting then you may need to consider potential global and political events. How would that impact on currencies in your chosen markets in the near future?
What does a 10% currency appreciation or depreciation mean for sales, revenues, profits and cashflow? Working through this with your accountant will ensure you can ascertain the impact of such events from a financial perspective. You’ll then be able to craft solutions accordingly to deal with such events.
Developing a clear plan and strategy will focus your mind. What resources will you need and when to achieve each of your goals? This provides you with clarity as to how much needs to be invested at each stage of the business lifecycle . You'll then know when you're going to need cash injections based on likely cashflow.
Understand what to focus on
As an entrepreneur, where should your efforts and concentrations be centred on? It’s a common issue. The early days of starting out can be very chaotic. There’s so much to set up, think about, implement and develop. It’s an emotional roller coaster of mass excitement and sharp shots of anxiety. Amid all this and with an ever mounting in-tray of to do’s, you can fast lose track of what’s important.
When writing a business plan you’re defining exactly what your organisation is today and then intends to become tomorrow. This coherence concerning the purpose of your business and direction in which you’re heading is invaluable. Doing this means you’ll understand what needs to be implemented to move forward.
As an example, your plan should describe your ideal customer and include their needs and wants. Then you’d expand on this as to how your products or services address their requirements. How are you going to market to these potential customers? How will you get your name out there? What approach will you adopt to make sales and generate revenue?
These are vital matters to address early on. Growth primarily comes through new customers and achieving repeat custom. This then determines your progress towards profitability. By mapping this all out on paper you’re giving yourself yardsticks to work towards. This means all tasks that you as the entrepreneur should focus on should be geared towards achieving your next goal. In a nutshell that’s where your focus should be.
Projections and the need for an accountant
The likelihood is to support your growth will require an injection of funding. That's unless you have an extremely cash generative business model. More often than not you probably won’t have enough customers and thus free cash flow to finance the next opportunity. You'll have a working capital requirement and thus need investment beyond the reach of your business.
You’ll likely have to approach potential sources of finance and they’ll want to assess the your income statements/profit and loss statements, and business plan. If you’re still at concept stage, or haven’t begun making sales, then their decision will rest solely on the strength of you and your business plan.
The statements help prospective lenders and investors understand the history of the organisation to date. The business plan provides them with a view of your future direction. They’ll look for many things in your plan. Ultimately their interest will focus on whether the expansion or development of your business will generate sufficient cash to both operate effectively while also fulfilling debt obligations.
This means you’re going to need to detail both profit and cashflow projections. Good forecasting and planning is seen as a way of understanding income and expenditure. This is particularly useful as a means to prevent payment issues over things like suppliers and staff wages. Many businesses close when such issues arise.
The likelihood is unless you’ve done this before, and know what you’re doing, then you’re going to need the help of an accountant. They’ll work with you to model the probable amount of cash in the business over time. This will then act as evidence to potential investors and financiers. They'll see if sufficient money will be generated by the activities of the business, to both fund future growth, while meeting financial commitments.
Manage your business effectively
The usefulness of a cashflow forecast doesn’t end there though. Managing your cash position , as you may have already gathered, is fundamental to the long term future of your business. There’s a common quote that “most businesses fail because they run out of money”. This means they’re no longer able to pay their debts when they’re due.
You should reference your cashflow projections in your business plan regularly. When you invest in your business, there will be significant out flows of money before any cash comes in. The timing of your investments thus needs to be considered against your projections and statements. Consider trading patterns, seasonal variations and the likely impact on cash flows.
If, for example, you sell through a credit extension then you’re going to receive payment in the future. That means after the goods or services have changed hands. The likelihood then is you’ll have to make payments in relation to the usual operations of your business before that income comes in from your customer.
So you can then see how poor cash management creates real issues. Make sure you work with your accountant, in the creation of your business plan and monitoring performance in relation to it. The documentation of well thought through ideas, combined with a shrewd strategy, and carefully planned projections will markedly improve your chances of long term survival and growth.
This post was created on 03/11/2016 and updated on 24/02/2022.
Please be aware that information provided by this blog is subject to regular legal and regulatory change. We recommend that you do not take any information held within our website or guides (eBooks) as a definitive guide to the law on the relevant matter being discussed. We suggest your course of action should be to seek legal or professional advice where necessary rather than relying on the content supplied by the author(s) of this blog.
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What Are the Functions of a Business Plan?
by Deb McLeod
Published on 26 Sep 2017
A business plan can help you to define and classify the goals you have for your business. Devoid of fluff, a business plan is a business document that is written for a variety of audiences. You might send your business plan to investors or it might be written for the benefit of your employees. Generally, the audience should have no bearing on the content. In the end, the business plan is about the business, its goals and how to achieve those goals.
A business plan helps you to define, for the short term, where you want your business to go. Because most people write a business plan when the business is new--or even still in the formative stages--providing immediate goals can be one solid method for defining exactly how you want your business to run right out of the box.
A good business plan will define in an unequivocal manner where you want your business to go. Some business plans will outline a two-, five- and 10-year plan, while others will simply identify long-term goals. The goals should be realistic; this part of the business plan should be the one that you give the most attention to. Having a solid long-term plan helps you to define how to operate now.
A good business plan will identify costs, sources of funding and expected income. Consider doing proper research before you add this element of the business plan; it’s important that your numbers are accurate, especially if you will be presenting your business plan to the bank or potential investors.
Use the business plan to identify your overall business strategy. You can identify how you plan to get and retain customers, get funding, improve your technology, deal with difficulties, send shipments, grow your business, hire employees and any other aspects of running your business.
Though it might not be read often, at its core, your business plan helps you to define what you want out of your business. Writing it down helps you to refine those goals and make them real.
Your business plan communicates to readers--who might be customers, investors or employees--what exactly your business is about. It’s likely you don’t have time to communicate these things verbally, so the business plan gives you a forum and a mechanism for communicating what matters to you about your business.
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What are the advantages and disadvantages of a business plan?
Almost every business starts with a business plan. These documents are used to map out the steps you want to take to get your business off the ground. However, do these strategy documents work for all businesses?
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an investor, business plans are considered an essential part of starting a new business . For business owners and other stakeholders, it acts as a manual that can be used to chart a business’ success. Similarly, business plans can generate confidence, helping to convince potential lenders that investment is a risk worth taking.
However, business plans can also be expensive and time-consuming to create. Additionally, there is also no guarantee that a business will succeed just because a sound plan has been put in place.
To help you decide if a business plan would benefit your new venture, this guide runs through the main advantages and disadvantages.
The advantages of a business plan
Although a business plan takes time and money to create, it can help save both in the future if done properly. Below we take a look at some of the key advantages of creating a business plan:
1. It helps you forecast future steps The primary purpose of a business plan is to give you (and investors) an idea of whether your business has the potential to be successful. By mapping out your next steps and setting milestones, you can spot strengths and weaknesses in your ideas and set targets. This is helpful as it may prevent you from proceeding with a business idea that may end up costing you money.
On the other hand, these initial forecasts may provide the positive projections you need to actually get started and even attract outside investment. Even if your business plan produces an uncertain forecast, it still provides a small glimpse of the direction your business wants to head in and how it may perform on the way. This is valuable information, both for business owners and third-party stakeholders.
2. It is required if you want to apply for credit In order to secure a business loan from an official lender, a business plan is essential. Most banks will not even meet with you to discuss financing unless you have a business plan to present. This is because financial institutions like banks and credit unions need a way to accurately gauge their lending risks.
A well-thought-out business plan gives you the opportunity to show lenders how organised and prepared you are. It should explain how your business will use any capital you are lent and how you intend to make repayments. This level of detail can help to instil confidence in your business by persuading lenders you are a good risk.
3. It helps you to identify future cash flow issues A business plan should contain detailed cash flow forecasts and analysis. This shows potential lenders how money is expected to travel in and out of your business. It can also be useful for owners to determine if/when the business is expected to have cash flow problems under certain strategies. Having this information at hand can make it easier to financially plan, ensuring the business is always properly funded.
4. It helps you to allocate resources One of the biggest challenges for new business owners is resource management. From how much inventory you should buy to setting initial budgets, these decisions can be difficult. A business plan encourages you to create a workable budget and allocate resources before you start spending. This ensures you can afford everything you need and you don’t overspend before your business can start making money.
5. It helps you better understand your competition Creating a business plan requires a great deal of industry research. While you may think you have a strong handle on what you want your business to achieve, only by analysing your competition will you be able to see the full picture. A business plan can help you produce highly valuable insights into competitor demographics. This includes existing consumer trends and preferences, as well as costing insights. These findings are not always viable without conducting business plan competitor analysis.
6. It can help to secure talent In order for a business to be successful, attracting talented workers is crucial. A business plan can help to secure this talent by setting out a clear vision for the business. From management to skilled entry level staff, by showing individuals the direction and potential of the business, you can start to build a strong and coherent team.
The disadvantages of a business plan
Business plans can be time-consuming and expensive to produce. On top of this, there is also no guarantee that they will be accurate or help you to achieve the investment you are looking for. With this in mind, below we outline a number of disadvantages when it comes to creating a business plan:
1. It may not be accurate Putting together credible business plans is a highly skilled process. For this reason, many businesses seek the help of experienced business advisors when creating one. However, even with the help of a broad range of expert opinions, there is no guarantee that what is produced will be accurate. Industries and even wider business climates can change very quickly. This means that even taking the time and money to create an in-depth business plan can be risky.
2. It can make you become ‘tunnel-visioned’ In a world where nothing is 100% certain, treating your business plan as an uncompromising manual is a bad idea. The fact is, they are nothing more than a set of forecasts. If followed religiously, these strategy documents can ultimately do more harm than good. This is especially true if you become tunnel-visioned by your business plan and fail to adapt when market forces and changing economic environments demand it.
3. It can waste precious time and money Creating a business plan can take a lot of time and money to produce. It may require the help of third-party experts, such as business advisors, lawyers and accountants, all of which will charge for their services. Additionally, it can also take you and other employees away from the day-to-day tasks involved with launching a new business. This can lead to precious resources being wasted on a task whose cost may exceed its benefits.
The above points show that although business plans represent an essential component for most new businesses, comprehensive plans may not be 100% necessary in all circumstances. Luckily, if you are looking to put one together but are struggling to know where to start, the Markel Law Hub can help. We have a simple, easy-to-follow business plan template for you to download. To learn how you can access the Markel Law Hub, click here .
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How to Develop and Use a Business Plan
Digital library > building and inspiring an organization > business plans, "how to develop and use a business plan".
A well-prepared business plan is more than a necessary tool to seek funding. It should also be a functional road map for your growth strategyI
Going with your gut instinct, how to create a long-range plan, they won’t throw tomatoes… but it’ll probably hurt just as much, chart stability with growth — not size, growing your company with acquisitions.
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Business plan: 6 major uses of a business plan by an entrepreneur.
6 Major Uses of a Business Plan by An Entrepreneur !
A business plan can be used by an entrepreneur for a variety of objectives. It is primarily used to get funding but there can be a number of other uses too.
Image Courtesy : wikihow.com/images/9/9d/Become-an-Entrepreneur-Step-6-Version-2.jpg
Some major applications of the business plan are discussed here.
1. Equity Funding :
A venture capitalist or an angel investor will very rarely commit an investment to a start-up without perusing its business plan. The venture capitalist will primarily use the business plan to gauge risks and forecast growth prospects. The investor will never restrict analysis of the business to just the business plan but it will always remain an important reference point.
2. Bank Finance :
A banker obviously concentrates on the ability of the business to repay the debt and on the availability of collateral or other securities. Banks look for at least some specific issues to be addressed in the business plan. For example, a bank needs projected balance sheets and profit and loss accounts for the first five years.
3. Alliances :
An entrepreneurial firm may need to form alliances with other firms to reach new markets, develop new products, or create common facilities. Other firms may want to know more about the business before committing to any long-term arrangement. Sometimes, a business plan can help convince a well-established retailer or distributor to commit to the start-up.
A good business needs support from experienced top-level employees. A business plan will help them understand what they are getting into. Of course, showing the business plan to the rank and file is not necessary.
5. Explain the Business :
A business plan helps in planning. While writing the business plan, it is likely that the entrepreneur was able to detect many shortcomings in the original business idea and these shortcomings could be overcome by thinking through and plugging the gaps.
Later, this plan can serve as a guide or manual to help in business and strategy formulation.
6. Miscellaneous Uses :
Very often, an entrepreneur seeks moral support from friends and family. A business plan can be a good way of presenting your business to your father, mother, wife, and colleagues. By going through it, they will have a better appreciation of what you are setting out to do.
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1. Business planning is proven to help you grow 30 percent faster
2. planning is a necessary part of the fundraising process, 3. having a business plan minimizes your risk, 4. crafts a roadmap to achieve important milestones, 5. a plan helps you figure out if your idea can become a business, 6. you’ll make big spending decisions with confidence, 7. you’re more likely to catch critical cash flow challenges early, 8. position your brand against the competition, 9. determines financial needs and revenue models, 10. helps you think through your marketing strategy, 11. clarifies your vision and ensures everyone is on the same page, 12. future-proof your business, 13. tracks your progress and measures success, 14. your business plan is an asset if you ever want to sell, writing your business plan, 14 reasons why you need a business plan.
10 min. read
Updated October 27, 2023
There’s no question that starting and running a business is hard work. But it’s also incredibly rewarding. And, one of the most important things you can do to increase your chances of success is to have a business plan.
A business plan is a foundational document that is essential for any company, no matter the size or age. From attracting potential investors to keeping your business on track—a business plan helps you achieve important milestones and grow in the right direction.
A business plan isn’t just a document you put together once when starting your business. It’s a living, breathing guide for existing businesses – one that business owners should revisit and update regularly.
Unfortunately, writing a business plan is often a daunting task for potential entrepreneurs. So, do you really need a business plan? Is it really worth the investment of time and resources? Can’t you just wing it and skip the whole planning process?
Good questions. Here’s every reason why you need a business plan.
Writing a business plan isn’t about producing a document that accurately predicts the future of your company. The process of writing your plan is what’s important. Writing your plan and reviewing it regularly gives you a better window into what you need to do to achieve your goals and succeed.
You don’t have to just take our word for it. Studies have proven that companies that plan and review their results regularly grow 30 percent faster. Beyond faster growth, research also shows that companies that plan actually perform better. They’re less likely to become one of those woeful failure statistics, or experience cash flow crises that threaten to close them down.
One of the top reasons to have a business plan is to make it easier to raise money for your business. Without a business plan, it’s difficult to know how much money you need to raise, how you will spend the money once you raise it, and what your budget should be.
Investors want to know that you have a solid plan in place – that your business is headed in the right direction and that there is long-term potential in your venture.
A business plan shows that your business is serious and that there are clearly defined steps on how it aims to become successful. It also demonstrates that you have the necessary competence to make that vision a reality.
Investors, partners, and creditors will want to see detailed financial forecasts for your business that shows how you plan to grow and how you plan on spending their money.
When you’re just starting out, there’s so much you don’t know—about your customers, your competition, and even about operations.
As a business owner, you signed up for some of that uncertainty when you started your business, but there’s a lot you can do to reduce your risk . Creating and reviewing your business plan regularly is a great way to uncover your weak spots—the flaws, gaps, and assumptions you’ve made—and develop contingency plans.
Your business plan will also help you define budgets and revenue goals. And, if you’re not meeting your goals, you can quickly adjust spending plans and create more realistic budgets to keep your business healthy.
A business plan is like a roadmap for your business. It helps you set, track and reach business milestones.
For your plan to function in this way, your business plan should first outline your company’s short- and long-term goals. You can then fill in the specific steps necessary to reach those goals. This ensures that you measure your progress (or lack thereof) and make necessary adjustments along the way to stay on track while avoiding costly detours.
In fact, one of the top reasons why new businesses fail is due to bad business planning. Combine this with inflexibility and you have a recipe for disaster.
And planning is not just for startups. Established businesses benefit greatly from revisiting their business plan. It keeps them on track, even when the global market rapidly shifts as we’ve seen in recent years.
To turn your idea into reality, you need to accurately assess the feasibility of your business idea.
You need to verify:
- If there is a market for your product or service
- Who your target audience is
- How you will gain an edge over the current competition
- If your business can run profitably
A business plan forces you to take a step back and look at your business objectively, which makes it far easier to make tough decisions down the road. Additionally, a business plan helps you to identify risks and opportunities early on, providing you with the necessary time to come up with strategies to address them properly.
Finally, a business plan helps you work through the nuts and bolts of how your business will work financially and if it can become sustainable over time.
As your business grows, you’ll have to figure out when to hire new employees, when to expand to a new location, or whether you can afford a major purchase.
These are always major spending decisions, and if you’re regularly reviewing the forecasts you mapped out in your business plan, you’re going to have better information to use to make your decisions.
The other side of those major spending decisions is understanding and monitoring your business’s cash flow. Your cash flow statement is one of the three key financial statements you’ll put together for your business plan. (The other two are your balance sheet and your income statement (P&L).
Reviewing your cash flow statement regularly as part of your regular business plan review will help you see potential cash flow challenges earlier so you can take action to avoid a cash crisis where you can’t pay your bills.
Competitors are one of the factors that you need to take into account when starting a business. Luckily, competitive research is an integral part of writing a business plan. It encourages you to ask questions like:
- What is your competition doing well? What are they doing poorly?
- What can you do to set yourself apart?
- What can you learn from them?
- How can you make your business stand out?
- What key business areas can you outcompete?
- How can you identify your target market?
Finding answers to these questions helps you solidify a strategic market position and identify ways to differentiate yourself. It also proves to potential investors that you’ve done your homework and understand how to compete.
A vital part of starting a business is understanding what your expenses will be and how you will generate revenue to cover those expenses. Creating a business plan helps you do just that while also defining ongoing financial needs to keep in mind.
Without a business model, it’s difficult to know whether your business idea will generate revenue. By detailing how you plan to make money, you can effectively assess the viability and scalability of your business.
Understanding this early on can help you avoid unnecessary risks and start with the confidence that your business is set up to succeed.
A business plan is a great way to document your marketing plan. This will ensure that all of your marketing activities are aligned with your overall goals. After all, a business can’t grow without customers and you’ll need a strategy for acquiring those customers.
Your business plan should include information about your target market, your marketing strategy, and your marketing budget. Detail things like how you plan to attract and retain customers, acquire new leads, how the digital marketing funnel will work, etc.
Having a documented marketing plan will help you to automate business operations, stay on track and ensure that you’re making the most of your marketing dollars.
In order to create a successful business, you need a clear vision and a plan for how you’re going to achieve it. This is all detailed with your mission statement, which defines the purpose of your business, and your personnel plan, which outlines the roles and responsibilities of current and future employees. Together, they establish the long-term vision you have in mind and who will need to be involved to get there.
Additionally, your business plan is a great tool for getting your team in sync. Through consistent plan reviews, you can easily get everyone in your company on the same page and direct your workforce toward tasks that truly move the needle.
A business plan helps you to evaluate your current situation and make realistic projections for the future.
This is an essential step in growing your business, and it’s one that’s often overlooked. When you have a business plan in place, it’s easier to identify opportunities and make informed decisions based on data.
Therefore, it requires you to outline goals, strategies, and tactics to help the organization stay focused on what’s important.
By regularly revisiting your business plan, especially when the global market changes, you’ll be better equipped to handle whatever challenges come your way, and pivot faster.
You’ll also be in a better position to seize opportunities as they arise.
An often overlooked purpose of a business plan is as a tool to define success metrics. A key part of writing your plan involves pulling together a viable financial plan. This includes financial statements such as your profit and loss, cash flow, balance sheet, and sales forecast.
By housing these financial metrics within your business plan, you suddenly have an easy way to relate your strategy to actual performance. You can track progress, measure results, and follow up on how the company is progressing. Without a plan, it’s almost impossible to gauge whether you’re on track or not.
Additionally, by evaluating your successes and failures, you learn what works and what doesn’t and you can make necessary changes to your plan. In short, having a business plan gives you a framework for measuring your success. It also helps with building up a “lessons learned” knowledge database to avoid costly mistakes in the future.
Down the road, you might decide that you want to sell your business or position yourself for acquisition. Having a solid business plan is going to help you make the case for a higher valuation. Your business is likely to be worth more to a buyer if it’s easy for them to understand your business model, your target market, and your overall potential to grow and scale.
Free business plan template
Join over 1-million businesses and make planning easy with our simple, modern, investor-approved business plan template.
By taking the time to create a business plan, you ensure that your business is heading in the right direction and that you have a roadmap to get there. We hope that this post has shown you just how important and valuable a business plan can be. While it may still seem daunting, the benefits far outweigh the time investment and learning curve for writing one.
Luckily, you can write a plan in as little as 30 minutes. And there are plenty of excellent planning tools out there if you’re looking for more step-by-step guidance. Whatever it takes, write your plan and you’ll quickly see how useful it can be.
See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan
Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software , a co-founder of Borland International, and a recognized expert in business planning. He has an MBA from Stanford and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. Today, Tim dedicates most of his time to blogging, teaching and evangelizing for business planning.
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