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Writing a business plan is indeed rather like putting Something into your Useful Pot. In this case, the "Something" is all the great stuff about your business. Forget the traumas and the negatives. Let's focus on the positives.
All business plans have essentially the same structure. Fortunately, they all look different, and read differently, and present different ideas.
The DYNAMIC of each business plan is different.
Imagine someone writing a business proposal to open a day care center to serve the employees working in a few very targeted buildings. That proposal would encompass all the elements of a typical business plan, such as marketing, financial projections, biographical summaries, etc. But, more importantly, this business plan would focus on the demographics of the employees in the targeted buildings. Most importantly, it would focus on the ages and family status of those employees.
Now suppose a day care center that had been in business for a few years wanted to expand, with six additional facilities in neighboring towns. The dynamic of the proposal immediately shifts. Now it becomes an issue of (1) prior success, (2) expansion strategy and (3) management ability to expand that dramatically.
That is the kind of dynamic that your business plan will create.
The very hardest part about writing a business plan is establishing that initial focus, that dynamic. Once you have that, the rest falls into place.
Describe it in one sentence.
It is not a bakery. It is a natural foods bakery. It is a gourmet French bakery. It is a commercial bakery that supplies decorated cakes to local supermarkets.
Not everybody. Probably not everybody in a certain age bracket even. Really focus it down.
It may well be that everyone within a ten mile radius is a potential client, but they are not are in your core target market.
Knowing that core market is essential to success.
What would you think if a total stranger came to you with an idea for a business? What would you want to know before lending that person money?
That is exactly the issue that all lenders and investors are faced with every single day.
Your job is to make their job as easy as possible.
As we look at the various aspects of writing a business plan, keep in mind the perspective of a total stranger.
This perspective is important even if you are going to a banker who is familiar with you and your business. Few bank managers make many decisions any more. It all goes "down town". Who knows what is "down town"? It could be someone who knows you and your industry.
Or it could be a total stranger.
Err on the side of caution. Assume that it is a stranger.
By the time this person finishes reading your business plan, he should feel comfortable with your business and with your goals for it. He should also feel comfortable with the fact that you are the best person to tackle this business.
If you have accomplished that, you have accomplished more than 99% of the business plans out there.
And the negative issues? As best you can, turn them into positives. You are not expanding in a "down market"; you are filling real gaps left by other businesses that have closed their doors. You have not "suffered through tough economic times"; you have learned a tremendous amount the past few years (with a few examples). If there are true negatives, the banker will discover them. Don't ever ever lie about them, but don't brag about them either. In writing a business plan, put your best foot forward.
So let's go discover what to put into
that Useful Pot ...
very glad," said Pooh happily, "that I thought of giving you a Useful
Pot to put things in."
"I'm very glad," said Piglet happily, "that I thought of giving you Something to put in a Useful Pot."
But Eeyore wasn't listening. He was taking the balloon out, and putting it back again, as happy as could be ...".
from WINNIE THE POOH, by A.A. Milne
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