If you are one of those college graduates or career changers who wants to start your own business, here’s how to get started.
Develop a business plan. You can get help writing a business plan from the small business association.
A business plan is an essential roadmap for business success. This living document generally projects 3-5 years ahead and outlines the route a company intends to take to grow revenues. It is broken up into the following sections:
1. An Executive Summary: Your executive summary is a snapshot of your business plan as a whole and touches on your company profile and goals.
2. Company Description: Your company description provides information on what you do, what differentiates your business from others, and the markets your business serves.
3. Market Analysis: Before launching your business, it is essential for you to research your business industry, market and competitors.
4. Organization and Management: Every business is structured differently. Find out the best organization and management structure for your business.
5. Service or Product Line: What do you sell? How does it benefit your customers? What is the product lifecycle?
6. Marketing and Sales: How do you plan to market your business? What is your sales strategy?
7. Funding Request: if you are seeking funding for your business, find out about the necessary information you should include in your plan.
8. Financial Projections: if you need funding, providing financial projections to back up your request is critical. Find out what information you need to include in your financial projections for your small business.
9. Appendix: An appendix is optional, but a useful place to include information such as resumes, permits and leases.
Remember that the key to small-business success is simplicity: Keep your business and your business plan simple. Share your plan with others, invite feedback and listen for resistance. Your plan is your promise to yourself and to your customers and investors so use it as a blueprint. Your business and its mission will never be static. Update it periodically so it reflects your best ideas.
Above all, make sure that you can explain your company’s mission, vision, objectives, strategies and action plans. According to Jim Horan, author of the One Page Business Plan and the CEO of his own company with more than 500 affiliates; you should be able to answer five simple questions. “Why does this business exist?” and “How will you grow this business?” were among the questions that helped entrepreneurs translate their thoughts into a new kind of business plan.
Horan trains entrepreneurs to translate their thoughts into a new kind of business plan—one that could be written in 29 sentences using key words and phrases. The beauty of this advice is that it forces the entrepreneur to distill the most important criteria for her business and for communicating the message to prospective employees, customers and investors. The concept of succinct plans has proved beneficial for first-time entrepreneurs and large corporations, non-profits and financial services. It makes sense that in an era where we are constantly inundated with messages that the clearest ones with the most salient ideas will resonate more than long-winded pitches. Having a succinct message about your business will make it easier for you to engage your target audience and help them appreciate the value of your product/service.