A business plan is a document that bridges the gap between a lofty dream and a real company that makes an impact on the world and generates profit.
Without a plan in place, how can you expect your business to get funding, gain traction, and overcome unexpected obstacles (they’re bound to happen at some point).
Here is what some modern business leaders said about setting a plan, sticking to it, and why that’s so crucial to success.
You don’t need to hire expensive consultants to perform a strong market analysis for your soon-to-be company. Draw from experience and research heavily to see where you stand.
“A thorough market analysis can’t be overlooked,” said Travis Killian, CEO and Founder of Everlasting Comfort. “It will describe how you plan to execute your strategy and focus on your company’s strengths that differentiate you. Consider unlikely moves from competitors and challenges that don’t even exist yet. It’s all about anticipation.”
A business plan isn’t complete without an understanding of the market, after all.
How is your business seeking funding, and how do you plan to obtain the money you need to get moving? Be ready with a strong plan and plenty of confidence to make it happen.
“When businesses come to us for funding, we look beyond the numbers and take note of intangibles like self-confidence, belief, and tenacity,” said Roy Ferman, CEO and Board Chairman of Seek Capital. “Of course, you can’t beat compelling figures, but a big part of your case should be the presentation and really selling your ideas from the heart.”
Inspiration is infectious, so tap into that inner spirit and share it with everyone.
It’s not a question of whether you’ll make mistakes – that’s unavoidable.
The real question is how you can minimize these mishaps and bounce back fast.
“In taking the proper steps before starting, you will minimize the chance for overspending and mismanagement, allowing yourself the time needed to learn from mistakes,” said Dan Potter, Co-Founder of CRAFTD London. “Ultimately, with an accurate model, you will be able to enlighten potential investors to the likelihood of success and provide yourself with reasonable means to accomplish what you’re setting out to do.”
A great business plan will get you back on track fast despite difficulties early on.
Elevator Going Up
You don’t need to work in a Manhattan skyscraper to have a strong elevator pitch. Consolidate your business plan into a quick monologue that hits all the key points fast.
“Think of a business plan as an enhanced, prolonged elevator pitch, because that’s truly what it is,” said Jeff Goodwin, Senior Director of Performance Marketing and Ecommerce at Orgain. “Elevator pitches are conversational enough that the recipient doesn’t even realize they’re being pitched. Take that same approach to a business plan, but include far more detail and description.”
Keep your pitch polished – you never know who you might encounter.
Maybe you have the perfect idea for a business in mind, but it doesn’t mean much until you have a clear game plan down on paper that you can show the world.
“A good business plan will gauge the value your startup has to an industry and help assess the means necessary to achieve your goals,” said Brandon Werber, Founder and CEO of Airvet. “In effect, it puts everyone on the same page, establishing a clear purpose and end goal for success. Describe your company in detail, from the ownership to the product or services offered. Clearly state your goals and company description.”
As you develop your plan, you’ll gain momentum, confidence, and get inspired for action.
Believe it or not, some business plans leave the customer entirely out of the picture. On the contrary, they should be the stars of the show.
“The business plan should address: How will I get customers? How will I market the product or service? Who will I target?” said Millennial Entrepreneur Cameron Johnson. “The principles of a business plan are pretty much the same. But after page one to two, everything is unpredictable, because costs or competition will change and you don’t know how things will be received by the market.”
With your customers in mind, the whole business plan becomes easier to write and problems sort themselves out sooner than later.
Read the Forecast
Predictions are a dime a dozen in the business world, but the ones that matter most will tell you what needs to be done to get your company moving in the right direction.
“By forecasting, you can see if an idea has the potential to succeed,” said Katie Lyon, Co-Founder of Allegiance Flag Supply, “Along with resource allocation for inventory and budget, you can predict core data for demographics, identifying the right businesses to work with. Being practical and putting forth a model is only one step towards success.”
Don’t aim for perfection with a business forecast. Do what you can and get to work ASAP.
The Financing You Need
In this day and age, you can’t underestimate the importance of a business plan when applying for a loan of any kind. After the madness of 2020, everyone is looking for some help.
“Most importantly, a business model can help you get the funding you need to get your company off the ground,” said John Berry, CEO of Berry Law. “Additionally, it will enable your company to analyze the resources needed to maintain cash flow and afford overhead. When drafting a model, provide a clear explanation of the opportunity presented and how the loan or investment will grow your company.”
Competition is fierce right now in the small business sector, so your plan better be on point.
SWOT Away the Competition
Ever heard of SWOT analysis? It’s one of the most simple yet effective methods to get your business plan on paper, fast.
“Take your business plan to the next level by including a SWOT analysis,” said Vincent Bradley, CEO and Co-Founder of Proper Wild. “SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and it’s a visual business analysis that allows you to compare your current position with your potential future moves. It’s a strong way to plot realistic growth and side-step possible roadblocks before they’re standing in your way.”
This approach takes some real honesty on your part, but if you can handle the truth, it can really amplify your efforts.
Make it Quick
Short, snappy, and to the point. That’s the hidden secret of every great elevator pitch. Networking is 24/7 these days, so be prepared at all times!
“You need to be able to succinctly explain what it is that you do and why other people should be interested,” said Bill Glaser, CEO of Outstanding Foods. “Your pitch shouldn’t be longer than 30 seconds, and it should include your goal, what your business does to achieve that goal, your unique selling proposition, and at least one open-ended question.”
Whether you’re pitching in person, on social media, or on a high-pressure Zoom call, the same principles always apply.
Friends and Fam
Speaking of networking, who do you have in your corner when crafting a business plan? At the end of the day, it’s all about people who will show up and support you.
“When developing your business plan, your network is your greatest asset,” said Shaun Price, Head of Customer Acquisition at MitoQ. “Leverage relationships you’ve already built with your friends and family, people who genuinely want to see you succeed. They will be the first people to test your product, the first customers to sign up for your mailing list, and the best grassroots marketing money can buy.”
You don’t need to be a celeb to make a splash in the business world. Sometimes the best brands come from strong networks of real friends and family.
Know Your Audience
It never hurts to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think about what they want from a future brand. Draw from your experience – good and bad – to put together a strategy.
“Determine customer needs, and find a way to satisfy them,” said Yuvi Alpert, Founder, Creative Director, and CEO of Noémie. “When I was creating Noémie, I was inspired by people who want a personalized luxury experience and to feel a part of the creative process. I was able to build my business plan from there because I understood my future client and was able to target their needs.”
The customer is always right, as they say, so why not plan your business from their point of view?
Some of us are brutally honest with others, but don’t apply that same standard to ourselves. If that sounds like you, it’s time to get real and honestly assess your upcoming business.
“Any good business plan needs a SWOT analysis,” said Tyler Boyd, Chief Strategy Officer at Squeeze. “SWOT analysis is a tool that business owners can use to highlight the things they’re doing right and pinpoint the places they need to improve. The beauty of a SWOT analysis is that you get out of it what you put into it—if you want to dive deeply into each element, it can be very complex.”
Get some outside perspectives as well when performing a SWOT plan to see the full picture.
The best business plans have lofty visions for the future, but are also down-to-earth with real figures that will keep your company on track financially.
“A key element of building a business plan is knowing your income,” said William Schumacher, CEO of Uprising Food. “It is easy to make a budget for the money you get while you are on a salary, but if you’re on a varied income, set a fixed amount. That way, you can use your worst day as guidance so that you can use the extra cash as a cushion when you need it.”
Build a balanced business plan that runs the numbers and focuses on growth.
Practical vs Impossible
Ambition is not only healthy, but it’s also key to success in all aspects of life, especially business. Just be sure to toe the line of practicality when setting forth a strategy.
“There are no guarantees with any business, no matter how talented or confident you are,” said Denis Hegstad, Co-Founder of LiveRecover. “Being practical is only one step towards success. Make sure to remain open-minded and humble enough to adapt and make necessary changes in the future.”
Things can change fast in the 21st century, so be ready for anything at any time.
It’s not the most glamorous aspect of entrepreneurship, but to build a stable business, you need to have your ducks in a row from a legal standpoint.
“Define your company’s legal structure and key employees, and each owner’s involvement from the outset,” said Nik Sharma, CEO of Sharma Brands. “Follow that with a detailed description of the services offered, price points, sales strategy, and further information that completes the plan. Cover those bases to protect yourself in all scenarios!”
If you aren’t 100% sure about your legal footing, don’t wing it. Get professional assistance and sleep soundly at night.
Are You Serious?
It seems like everyone has some kind of business plan in today’s internet culture. When you put pen to paper, you can find out for yourself if you’re serious about it, or just playing.
“It is very important to have a business plan,” said Grant Hosking, Co-Founder of Total Hydration. “It not only makes you focus on and outline your goals, but it also shows how serious you are about your company. Business plans are also extremely helpful when it comes to getting the support on a financial and trust level.”
You can learn a lot from keeping an eye on the competition, even when your business is still in the founding stages. Many markets are getting crowded on the web, so this is extra important in 2021 and beyond.
“One of the main reasons to hone in on your business plan as an entrepreneur is for when there is significant competition within your industry,” said Abe Rahmanizadeh, COO of Leafwell Botanicals. “As CBD has become more popular over the years, we need to make sure that we truly stand out rather than existing simply as a clone of another CBD company.”
Analyze products, websites, funnels, and service methods to get an idea of where the competition is at – it will pay off big.
Don’t Get Lost
Your business journey will have twists, turns, and unexpected obstacles. The plan you lay out at the beginning is crucial to pushing forward no matter what happens.
“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!” said Bestselling Author and Business Coach Kevin J. Donaldson.
Okay, maybe starvation is a bit extreme, but the analogy holds up.
On the Same Page
You’ll be bringing in talent from every corner of your network to bring your business to life, and that means making sure everyone is on the same page with a clear, concise plan at the core.
“Business plans are vital to have for any business,” said Jay Shah, Founder and CEO of Auris, Inc. “As an entrepreneur, business plans help you lock in your core ideas, your marketing strategy, and the various goals you want to achieve. They help contribute to the success of your business.”
With a plan that everyone agrees on, daily operations become more streamlined and simplified for the whole organization.
Before your business mission can be accomplished and celebrated, it needs to be established in clear terms, including realistic goals that don’t cause you and your staff to go mad.
“Make sure you are making goals both short-term and long-term,” said Bari Medgaus, COO of Stabili-Teeth. “Your business plan must include both those goals as well as how you will achieve it. That’s why it’s important to have a business plan – to help you outline those goals.
What is the real underlying mission of your business and how is it different from the rest?
Let the Plan Write Itself
For founders who have a burning passion for business, writing a plan shouldn’t feel like a chore. Instead, the experience should be automatic, and can’t happen fast enough.
“The beginning of a strong business is a strong plan,” said Omid Semino, CEO of Diamond Mansion. “Once you recognize that customer needs should be at the center of everything you do, your plan will write itself, and success will follow.”
If you’re struggling to piece together a basic business plan, that might be a red flag right out of the gate.
Approval from the Bank
Whether you’re looking for a loan of $10,000 or a cool million, the bank is going to ask you one key question: how exactly are you planning to pay them back?
“Business plans are vital as you need them in order to apply for loans,” said Olivia Young, Head of Product Design of Conscious Items. “This is especially true for small businesses wanting a grant. Getting anything financial you will need approved relies solely on having a great business plan.”
The loan application process can be intimidating, but stay focused and bring the heat.
Sometimes, the bank won’t be the best way to get the funding you need. Many companies seek cash infusions from other types of investors and can accelerate their growth in the process.
“You need a business plan in order to attract investors,” said Guy Bar, CEO and Co-Founder of Hyfit. “Investors are very fickle about where they put their money and you want to make sure their plan is attractive enough to get them (the investors) wanting to invest in you and your business. The more detailed and organized your business plan is, the better your chances are of getting an investor to get on board.”
Decide the best way to get funding for your business and pursue that path relentlessly until you’re off the runway.
Stand Out and Shine
From food trucks to semiconductor microchips, every industry is fiercely competitive these days. Your business plan needs to contain differentiators that set you apart from the outset.
“It is important to have a clear business plan that will help your business stand out from the rest within your industry,” said Ming Zhao, CEO and Co-Founder of Proven Skincare. “In our case, we knew that using artificial intelligence to formulate customized skincare products would be something unique and revolutionary, and this original thinking has led to our recognition and success.”
What really makes your business unique and what is the competitive edge that will push you to the front of the pack?
Take it Slow
Urgency is universal in the world of business, but don’t let time constraints impact your strategy in a negative way. You sometimes need to slow down and look around before moving forward.
“It’s easy to get carried away with a business plan and think you can take on the world from the jump,” said Brent Sanders, CEO of Wicksly. “That kind of ambition is certainly healthy and you shouldn’t suppress it, but instead try to map it out over a longer time horizon and be more realistic. There will always be time to expand and scale up.”
Are you sacrificing quality for speed? If so, it might be time to rebalance priorities.
Just Do Something
When starting a business, your daily to-do list will be longer than the day itself.
Make sure you get something tangible done each day so you feel accomplished and keep that momentum up, even when the pressure mounts.
“I have led a number of businesses, so I know all about business plans!” said Mary Berry, Founder and CEO of Cosmos Vita. “When running a business it is definitely helpful to plan things out. For instance, we already had our website and socials for Cosmos Vita running even before we officially launched.”
Simply checking tasks off your list is key to maintaining mental sanity and making steady progress.
Minimal = Masterful
Smart people tend to overcomplicate things. That’s great for making revolutionary products and services, but not so helpful when mapping out a business plan at the beginning.
“Avoid the trap of thinking that a complex business plan is more compelling than a simple one,” said Benjamin Smith, Founder and CEO of Disco. “You might be better off keeping things minimal and stripping away some layers to make things more accessible and comprehensible at first. The best businesses start small and simple, and tend to gain traction more quickly.”
Is your business plan in the works or is it still a distant dream? Maybe you’ve got a complete plan that just needs a bit of extra editing and revision. Apply these CEO-certified tips to make your plan bulletproof and move your business forward today.