If you’re in business, you have to plan for success. You know the old saying, “to fail to plan is to plan to fail.” And of-course, if you’re actually serious about implementing your plan, you’re going to write it down. Any business plan not worth writing down is not worth acting on. On the other hand, just because you’ve written down a plan, doesn’t mean it’s a good one – or that it’ll convince the bank.
In this post:
- The two kinds of business plans – most business people only know about one (and suffer for it).
- What you absolutely need to know about how to write a business plan that succeeds. If your plan lacks these, you’ll never get a cent from investors.
- The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when they hire a business consultant to write your business plan.
Firstly there are two kinds of business plans
- The kind you write because you’re actually planning for your business.
- The kind you write to convince someone else to believe in your vision.
The worst business plans, the ones least likely to succeed in actual implementation are the kind written purely for the bank. In other words, your business needs a plan, not because you’re trying to convince an investor, but because your vision is real and you’re serious about succeeding. A common approach in Zimbabwe and in most places is to hire a consultant to write a business plan for you.
Warning, before you hire a business consultant: beware! Make sure their process isn’t to simply cut and paste a template, and write the whole thing for you. It’s faster and easier that way, but it’ll disadvantage you. Instead your business consultant’s role should be to help YOU write your own plan, not write it for you.
You see, a mega benefit of writing a business plan is the incredible mental clarity it brings to you. That clarity will affect your confidence, decision making and daily agenda is a way that you wouldn’t believe. Personally going through the process of writing down a full business plan forces you to crystallize your thoughts and insights in an amazing way. That kind of mental clarity is what separates top entrepreneurs from the rest but it’s not for the lazy.
In Zimbabwe now there are very many business consultants claiming expertise in all kinds of things, be sure that whoever you choose to hire is made of the right stuff.
Laughing all the way to the bank?
Once you have absolute clarity on your business and your plan for the business, you need to communicate it to others effectively. If a business investor or any local bank in Zimbabwe is going to give you a loan, then they expect several basics from you…
1) Prove that the opportunity is genuine. That means you need market data. Just because no one else is selling a certain kind of technology doesn’t mean there’s an opportunity there because they may be no demand for that particular solution. On the other hand, if you can show an investor a real, reliable and long-term trend that’s creating a whole in the market that you can fill…you’re off to a good start.
2) Demonstrate that your team is capable of success. Show how your team is well able to implement this plan and make a success of this business opportunity. Talk about relevant experience, past successes and anything that gives your team the believability you need to reduce the risk in the mind of the investor.
3) That when they do, the revenue will outweigh the investment made. At every one of these three stages, you are showing the reader of your business plan that the risk of giving you the money is low and the reward is high. Think in these terms, because that’s what it comes down to. This is where your marketing needs to weigh in. In most cases, I’d consider the marketing plan the most important part of the whole plan, after all, nothing else matters if you can’t get a customer.
4) What happens if our plan doesn’t work? There’s a really high chance that no matter how good your plan is, it may not work. Don’t resist this reality, embrace it. Perhaps you overestimated the demand, underestimated the costs or forgot to estimate the competition – for whatever reason your plan may fail. It’s smart business to have a plan B. The more flexibility or adaptability your plan has the better and the higher the chances of success. Smart investors or potential partners want to see this. If absolutely everything in your plan has to go right for your ultimate success, then you have a poor plan. Think again.
5) Collateral. Ultimately, if you’re dealing with a bank, or any conventional investor or money lender, they want to see some collateral. Collateral basically means ‘what can you offer as a guarantee for your loan’. A house, a piece of property, some sort of valuables – anything that far exceeds the value of your loan and can be easily sold to recover the money you’ve failed to pay back.
Of-course, it’s really collateral that keeps most people from being able to get a loan in the first place. I mean if you had a half a million dollar house to guarantee a loan, you probably wouldn’t need the loan in the first place right?!
For this reason, I urge entrepreneurs to be a little more creative than just going to the bank. Banks don’t make their money by risking money to your dream come true, they make it by avoiding as much risk as possible.
If you’re creative, and educated on how to present and persuade, then you’ll find that you often have many more options than a bank loan. Options that will often give you much better and easier pay-back terms.
As far as the actual writing of your business plan goes, remember the following
- Make sure your plan/ idea is well thought out
- Write clearly and concisely
- Use a clear and logical structure throughout
And that’s it (for now). Using the information above, you more effectively plan and present a plan for your business.
Yours for smarter business,
Max Soutter is the founder of the Business Setup Group. An organization dedicated to helping entrepreneurs start-up and grow businesses the smart way. He blogs at http://bizsetup.wordpress.com where this article appeared first. Email Max directly on firstname.lastname@example.org for help with your business setup, internet marketing strategy or corporate marketing efforts.