Business planning is one of the most common areas of interest for our clients at the Halton Small Business Centre. Here are a few tips on business planning, as well as how we at the Halton Small Business Centre can assist you to write a fantastic plan of your own!
1. Business planning basics
The business plan is your road map for your business, showing you where you will take the business and how you will get there, so ensuring that you have done a complete job of including all of the details is critical. First and foremost, the business plan is for you. One of the biggest contributors to failure in small business is poor planning, so think of your business plan as a critical document on your road to success.
The plan is also your ticket to financing and communicating your vision to others, so make sure your writing is clear, concise, and easy to understand. Avoid using too much jargon or industry-specific language that only you will understand; remember that the bank loans officer sitting across from you or the private investor you are showing it to might not have your training or understanding of your industry.
2. Formats and templates
Business plans differ the world over in terms of formatting and the finer details, but in general all business plans will include a few main sections. These sections include the Introduction (made up of your Title Page, Table of Contents, and Executive Summary), Business Concept, Operations, Marketing, Financials, and Appendices. Many banks and business centres have business planning templates that you can follow; if you are applying for a loan, check with the institution where you are applying and use their template, as they will be familiar with it. The Canada-Ontario Business Service Centre has an excellent list of business planning templates offered by the banks and other organizations at: http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/86/4878/
Here at the Halton Small Business Centre, we also have a basic business planning template for you to use in order to help make the process as straight-forward as possible. Go to http://www.halton.ca/cms/one.aspx?portalId=8310&pageId=19224 to download our planning template for free.
You can also use software such as Business Plan Pro to assist you. We have this software available at the Halton Small Business Centre, and all clients are welcome to come in and use it for free.
3. Keys when writing the plan
When writing the plan make sure you answer every section in detail. Where possible include dates, timelines, and specifics. Avoid ambiguous statements, and make sure you have conducted thorough research – a poorly researched and vague business plan will not only scare away investors, but it will be little help to you as well.
When it comes to the financial statements, make sure to forecast sales conservatively and expenses aggressively. One of the most common mistakes new business owners make is to forecast too high on sales and too low on expenses. Try to avoid this trap!
4. Samples and other assistance
At the Halton Small Business Centre we have hundreds of samples available for clients to browse through. We offer a number of reference books including case studies from all industries, as well as dozens of online samples through Business Plan Pro.
Once you have written your plan we will be happy to review it for you and provide feedback. Whether you are going to a bank or just writing it for yourself, we will assist you to make sure that your plan is on the right track.
For more information on how we can assist you to create your own road map to success through outstanding business planning, visit the Halton Small Business Centre at 1151 Bronte Road, Oakville or online at www.halton.ca/business.