A high percentage of ventures fail because they don’t have a business plan, according to Laura Aveledo, business planning and international trade adviser at Small Business BC, a resource centre offering services, support and seminars for entrepreneurs. Aveledo gives us the short version of one of her courses
Illustrations by Victoria Park1. Start with a template
“Most business plans start with an executive summary, and that’s the first thing that people need to see,” Aveledo says, “but that is done at the end.” A template should include sections covering the business concept; operations (processes, equipment, location, permits, risks); sales and marketing (pricing, differentiation from competitors, sales methods); management (who’s on the team and what they do); and financials (where the money comes from and when, how much funding you need).
2. Frame your business concept
Outline what your product or service is and how you will provide it. What client pain do you resolve, and why would customers want that? Then research the details. What are industry trends, and what are competitors doing? How can you make your product different? Who are your clients, how much will they pay, and where do they live? Can you pay yourself a salary, and how much do you need to have in the bank at month’s end? “These are examples of questions that you have to ask yourself when you’re starting the business,” Aveledo explains.
3. Evaluate options
Analyze the results of your research and decide what you can feasibly do. “Sometimes you know you want to provide a specific product or service, and then you find things that [make] you think, ‘These are not for me,’” Aveledo notes. Reject ideas if you feel they don’t make sense, be realistic, and compare alternatives.
4. Set goals
Objectives could be the number of new clients you want to attract each quarter, sales contracts you expect to close per month or weekly likes on social media. You might want to institute a quality control program by a certain month or grow sales by 10 per cent in the next three months. Whatever they are, Aveledo stresses, “your goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.”
5. Write the plan
“Now you have the answers, you have your goals, so writing down the plan is much easier because you have made sense of things,” Aveledo says. “Be clear. Be precise. Be to the point.” Follow the template, then review what you’ve written. Ask someone unfamiliar with your plan to read it to make sure it’s easy to understand, Aveledo advises, adding that “no entrepreneur has ever done it alone.”