Business Plan For a Small Business – What Purpose Does it Serve?

One of my favorite types of projects is working on small business plans with clients. There is an air of excitement as they work out their ideas and put their dreams on paper. I always think that I might be witnessing a birth of another future corporate giant. Some of those ideas are compelling, others seem unattainable, and yet the confidence and certainty my clients exhibit leave me with no doubt that they will succeed.The Challenge of Writing a Business Plan
As excited as these entrepreneurs are about their ideas, for many of them the actual task of writing things down in a business plan format is very hard. They would rather get started already, develop their product or service, find a location – do all the things a typical small business owner does. They have such inner clarity about every single detail and yet communicating all of it in writing – in a business plan format – seems completely against their nature. It feels too structured, almost unnecessary.Obtaining Financing
And yet, especially it today’s world, it is necessary. Most of the time the purpose for a small business plan is to obtain financing. No matter which group you are thinking of approaching – venture capitalists, commercial lenders, potential investors – they will all want to see a formal, written business plan.Even though many people use business plans primarily, and sometimes only, as financing tools, they tend to write them in a way that puts the venture in too optimistic a light. Even if it gets you the cash you wanted, it will not help you succeed, because if the business has not been well thought out, or if the risks are too great, it will fail.A realistic and objective business plan that also conveys your excitement about your business idea and your confidence in reaching your goals will have a much better chance of not only getting you the financing you need, but also fulfilling the other purpose it was meant to serve:Planning a Business
Yes, that’s it! A business plan is a “planning tool”. That is its primary function and purpose. And it does this so well that shrewd business people like investors and bankers use it to determine who will get financed by them and who will not.And you too will benefit from using it the most when you see it as such and not only as a sales tool.It is a structured approach to refining your ideas about your business and devising a plan of action taking into account all aspects of the future enterprise: marketing, personnel, operations and finance. It helps you translate your ideas into actionable goals and it helps to predict your financial resource needs and financial results.As you fine tune it, you will find out that it allows you to make many mistakes “on paper” and saves you from their consequences in the real world.Monitoring a Business
The hardest business plan to draft is your very first one. Why? Because all you have are estimates and assumptions. But after a few months of operations, you will have some real numbers and you can update your plan at that point. Planning process has to be dynamic and on-going. A plan is not something you do once and put on a shelf. If it is to you, you have not realized the tremendous value it has for your business.It should be an integral part of your management. Use it to compare your actual results to what you were anticipating. Analyze the deviations and understand them. Perhaps what you did was better than what you planned, perhaps not. Either way, you can learn from this comparison and refine your planning and your operations even further.Any time you plan to introduce a new product, enter a new market, change the management structure, you should first prepare a business plan for the scenario you are envisioning. And don’t think this means too much time involvement for you. After all, you are just a small business owner. You cannot behave like a large corporation with a separate planing department, right? Wrong…Large companies have large planning departments because they have learned the value and necessity of planning, but you need it just as much, if not more, because as a small business owner you do not have the reserves that can carry you through a sales slump or a bad business mistake.This is what I always tell my clients – small businesses need all the sophistication of large companies. They actually need it even more, they just need it scaled down and adjusted to their size.