Antoine de Saint-Exupery was a Renaissance man – a French writer, poet, aristocrat, journalist, and pioneering aviator. His quote;
A goal without a plan is just a wish” is brilliant in its simplicity, fundamental truth, and depth of understanding.
Success in business – or in life – begins with a dream and a purpose.
A well-done business plan is just as needed and valuable for an existing, established company as it is for a start-up.
Then goals are set and defined, based on that purpose. But it is extremely difficult – if not impossible – to reach goals without a good plan. The bridge that takes you from dreams and goals to actual success, in reality, is a thorough, correctly-sequenced plan. A properly-done business plan is an exact roadmap to success. Without a good plan, an individual or a business is like a rudderless ship, and unlikely to arrive at its destination (goals).
A well-done business plan is just as needed and valuable for an existing, established company as it is for a start-up. In fact, most established business need a current business plan based on the existing state and conditions of the business in order to reach its goals. In addition, a comprehensive and well-done business plan helps a business receive any needed funding/financing. We know this from first-hand experience, having secured over $300 Million in funding for ourselves and our clients over the years – from banks, SBA, venture capital and investors. I can state as a fact that not one dollar would have been generated if it weren’t for a thorough, properly-sequenced and real business plan.
There are two distinct types of business plans:
- For an existing business that wants to grow, achieve its goals and/or resolve barriers
- For a start-up venture
1. Business Plan for An Existing Business
A well-done business plan is actually a rocket-boost for an existing business. Whatever level a business is at now, it can skyrocket to higher levels with a well-done business plan that covers every point and ingredient – and is correctly sequenced.
✅ Is your business stagnant or struggling? A well-done business plan will take it to higher levels of revenues, profitability, and efficiency.
✅ Is your business growing so fast that there are management challenges, stress, chaos or growing pains? A well-done business plan will solve every challenge and enable your business to grow comfortably and keep the stress and chaos to a bare minimum.
✅ Is your business declining or otherwise not achieving its goals? A good business plan will turn the business around and take it to high levels of profitability and success.
A business plan is an exact step-by-step roadmap. What do you need to know when you plan a trip? You need to know two things: (1) where you are now, and (2) where you want to go.
The first step in developing a business plan is defining where you want to go – what are your business goals and purposes. These are exact, clear, fully defined goals and purposes. They are written out, worked over, thought through and refined until the business owner/executive has his or her goals and purposes exactly right. This could take an hour, a day or even weeks.
The second step is to determine where the business is now. This requires a comprehensive and objective analysis of the existing state of the business – in all areas and elements of the business.
A business plan won’t produce desired results if it is based on incorrect or missing information. As an analogy, consider a person with a mystery illness who sees a doctor. If the doctor doesn’t accurately diagnose the illness, then the prescribed treatment probably won’t work – or could make the patient even worse. A doctor’s treatment plan depends on an accurate diagnosis, which in turn comes from comprehensive tests (blood work, X-rays, MRI, history, list of current medications, etc.)
Similarly, a comprehensive and objective analysis of every part of the business is like diagnosing a condition.
Such an analysis covers all these elements:
- business goals;
- analysis of the company against each of the 13 Ingredients to Business Success – (1) leadership and management, (2) product or service to clients, (3) personnel and personnel development, (4) structure and organization, (5) communication, (6) marketing, (7) operations, (8) quality control, (9) sales, (10) customer/client service, (11) accounting and finance, (12) compliance and legal, and (13) information/network technology (IT);
- new customer/client flow;
- analysis of existing and past marketing actions and campaigns – internal & external – to determine what worked or works and what doesn’t;
- evaluation of all personnel in the company;
- analysis of jobs, job descriptions, etc.;
- analysis of how the people are organized and structured, and how efficient and productive is the team;
- review of company policies, procedures, and systems;
- identify all strengths of the company;
- identify all past and current successes of the company, and what produced those successes.
- examination of the flows within the business – flows of people, information, customers, products, etc.
- identify any weaknesses in the company
- evaluation of sales personnel, sales performances, and sales management, if applicable;
- evaluation of quality control procedures;
- the business environment and competition;
- quality of R&D if applicable;
- quality of IT systems and technology;
- any legal and financial issues.
All this sounds like a lot, and it is, but it takes less time to complete than it looks on paper.
For a business plan to succeed, it must be based on an accurate assessment of the existing state of the business – just like a doctor’s treatment plan depends on an accurate diagnosis. There is an exact process for such an analysis that is smooth and efficient; our company, KLH Growth Strategies, helps businesses conduct such a valuable analysis.
Once these two steps are finished – the business goals, and where it is now (comprehensive business analysis) – then an exact plan of action is developed. A well-done business analysis itself practically hands you all the elements of a successful business plan. All that is left is to put everything together in the correct sequence.
The sequence of steps of a business plan is extremely important because each business has its own strengths, weaknesses, and situations.
Take the example of cooking a complex meal. You first must have a clear picture in your mind what the end result looks and tastes like. You then have to know all the ingredients needed to produce the desired end result – with no unnecessary ingredients added. But you don’t then take those ingredients, mix them all together without any thought, bake this mess and put that on the table.
No, you have to follow an exact sequence of steps, each step involving one or more of the ingredients. The desired end result is produced only if each step was done properly and in the correct sequence. A properly done business analysis tells you all the ingredients you need. The next step is to work out the exact sequence of those ingredients. What is the most important and highest priority step right now? What is the very first step out of all these ingredients? What does the company need first? After the highest priority is defined, what is Step 2 of the plan – the next highest priority? And so on.
All the ingredients and steps can’t be done at one time, or chaos will result. And the steps can’t be done out of sequence, either, or the business will struggle or possibly fail.
Sequencing a business plan correctly takes some expertise, skill, and knowledge. The end result of all this work is a master plan for success. If the business plan is done exactly right and thoroughly, all that needs to be done is for the people in the business to follow each step, one at a time, until each step is completely done. In this way, the business moves onward and upward toward its goals without fail, efficiently and smoothly.
One other point: one step of a plan could be a complex project by itself. This is handled by considering the project as a mini-plan and working out its steps, then carrying out those steps until the project is complete. Then going to the next step of the overall plan.
II. Start-Up Operation
A start-up business without a thorough business plan is doomed to failure. There are two purposes for a start-up plan: (1) as the necessary roadmap to success, and (2) to secure any needed start-up capital/funding.
Here is the outline for a start-up business plan:
- A clear, clean and complete statement of the purpose and mission of the business.
- A detailed statement of the problem or need your product or service is designed to satisfy – the reason you are establishing your business – to include all supporting documentation, market research, surveys, reports, etc.
- A complete and clear description of the market your business will operate in, to include: the size of your target market; whether your target customers are individuals or businesses; how many people or businesses have the problem or need you identified in Step 2 and therefore are potential customers; where are your target markets geographically; market trends and patterns; changes in societal attitudes or needs as a result of potential advances in technology; and so on
- A detailed description of your product and service, and how that will satisfy the problem or need identified in Step 2; exactly how your product or service will improve the quality of people’s lives
- Your competition, their competing products/services, how they do business, where they are located, their strengths and weaknesses in relation to your product or service
- How your product or service is superior to and different from your competitors’ products
- Leadership and management team, and any business advisors being consulted
- List of jobs needed to be filled and personnel/staffing requirements
- Training and development of your people, as applicable
- How you intend to organize and structure your business and team, to include board structure and members if applicable
- Complete and detailed marketing strategies and campaigns, to include such elements as branding, specific advertising channels, and media, any marketing or ad firms you intend to bring in, differentiation from your competitors, retail outlets if applicable, and so on.
- Capital needs
- Any applicable legal considerations and actions such as patents, copyrights, trademarks, non-disclosures, trade secrets, proprietary formulas, etc. Include any needed legal staff or outside legal firm requirements.
- Innovation or product development strategies
- Product delivery and logistics needs and systems
- Sales methods, sales force needs, sales force training
- Product support, customer service
- Production and operations systems, flows and structures
- Suppliers and sub-contractors as applicable
- Any applicable corporate matters
- Funding or capital needs
- Financial projections (keep these conservative and real)