At Masterly, we see you as the superhero, and we make it our mission to be your sidekick as you aim to grow your business idea from a concept into one superhuman force that can be reckoned with.
You can’t embark on a trip without a roadmap, and the same is true for your entrepreneurial journey. A strong business plan gives confidence to not only your potential investors but also you, as you start growing your business. Here’s how to create a business plan that will keep you on track and help you set, achieve, and perhaps even exceed your business goals.
Step 1. Lay Out the Business Details
A good business plan answers almost any question that an outside party might have about your business. You should focus on the facts and how they support the viability of your idea. To that end, most business plans feature the following sections:
- Executive Summary
- Overview and Objectives
- Products and Services
- Market Opportunities
- Sales and Marketing
- Competitive Analysis
- Management Team
- Financial Analysis
However, structures of business plans have changed with the times. A business plan no longer has to be obscenely long and cumbersome. It suffices to say that your plan should provide you with the plan you need to succeed. No more, no less.
That said, you should focus on hard data and reasonable predictions throughout your plan. Notice that there are no sections titled “Aspirations” or “Fantasies.” Think of your business plan as a blueprint to your house: You wouldn’t start describing a pool if there is no room for one.
Step 2. Solve the Problems
It’s relatively easy to list out details for a hypothetical business, but your business plan needs to be prepared for Murphy’s Law. Take the position of the ultimate pessimist and start seeking out problems in your plan. Imagine the worst-case scenarios and how your business would respond. Do you have a plan of action to help you resist someone punching holes in your business? Because that’s what potential investors may do.
You don’t need to write out a detailed explanation of how your business would solve every potential problem, but you should keep the pessimist in the back of your mind as you write your plan. What problems are you solving for the customer? What pitfalls can you avoid? What will you if sales slump? If a new competitor emerges? Think through each scenario before finishing your plan.
Step 3. Have an Expert Take a Look
Even the best-thought-out business plan may have some holes that need filling. Often, it’s a good idea to bring in an outside perspective. Once you’ve laid out your ideas and worked through them a bit, call in an experienced entrepreneur or business consultant to review your plan. They’ll be able to check everything from internal consistency to your math to the overall viability of the plan.
Remember, this plan is more than just a personal reference book for your business. It’s your roadmap to success. You wouldn’t use a map that has missing roads, incorrect mile markers, or a road that doesn’t exist anymore. By having an expert look it over, you can ensure that you have a robust plan, you can proudly show to investors and stakeholders.
A stellar business plan is one that answers most questions about your business while providing you a structure for your growth efforts. Everything you do, from pitching to investors to developing your marketing strategy, can and should be guided by your business plan. It’s easy to get carried away with a great idea, but one of the chief reasons that new businesses fail is that they barreled forward without a plan.
So, you’ve got a great idea for a business — and you’re a woman. While popular belief holds that running a business is a man’s world, that’s no longer true. In the United States alone, there are 12.3 million women-owned businesses — 40 percent of all businesses. These businesses range in size from sole proprietorships to large companies with hundreds of employees.
If you’re ready to join this growing group of women, it’s time to get your business on its feet. To do that, you need to secure funding to support its growth. Contrary to what you may have heard, you don’t need to be wealthy to start a business. Here are some ways to fund your new women-owned business:
Small Business Loan
In the United States, you have multiple options for small business loans. The Small Business Administration backs loans from private financial institutions to new businesses. If you have good credit and have been in business a while, you can usually get one of these loans to help grow your business. If you’re just starting, it can be challenging to get a business loan. You may need to take out a personal loan based on your credit history.
If you’ve got a viable business idea with market potential and a robust business plan, you can try to obtain angel capital. Many entrepreneurs desire this type of funding because, as the name suggests, it provides a necessary cash infusion to your new business without the expectation that you pay it back. You don’t have to meet the credit checks or provide the collateral that a bank would require.
In exchange for funding your startup, angel investors typically want equity in your business. That amounts to owning a piece of your company. While that may sound scary, it can be a massive benefit to your business. Angel investors are more often than not, experienced business people who can provide helpful guidance and consultation to your company.
If you’re interested in starting up a company and selling it, you should look into venture capital. Unlike angel investors, venture capitalists work with firms to invest from a pool of money. And while you don’t typically need to pay the money back, you need to be able to deliver a high ROI (return on investment) to the venture capitalists. Most venture capitalists want an ownership stake in a company, so if you’d like to hang onto your business down the road, go for angel investors.
Small Business Grant
As a Woman-Owned Business, you are eligible for small-business grants. Like angel investments, these don’t need to be paid back. Unlike angel investments, you don’t need to sacrifice ownership share in your company. There are many grants available for women-owned businesses. The federal government backs some, and others are available through private foundations. Unfortunately, the criteria are typically strict and the process is highly competitive.
When applying for a small business grant, ensure that your business meets the profile described in the call for applications. You’ll likely need to assemble a lot of documentation and write an extremely compelling proposal to win the grant. Once you get one, though, the benefits are immense: A small business grant provides an infusion of cash to your business that never has to be paid back.
Whichever type of funding you choose, make sure that you develop a thorough business plan that encompasses your financial obligations. Funding woes are among the top reasons Woman-Owned businesses fail. Don’t leave it up to chance: Make a strong financial plan, enact clear agreements with any investors, and meet your commitments. And remember, always do your research before signing anything! Caution and clarity are key to business success.
So suit up, business owners talk next time! Your Masterly Team