One of the first things you should consider when you’re trying to get a new business off the ground is creating a solid startup business plan. Not only will a business plan help you articulate your company’s goals and strategies, it could help you to grow your business.
You might want to find a template online and write your startup business plan yourself, or you may decide to hire a team of business plan consultants, like Take the Stairs in Nashville, TN, that can do the heavy lifting for you. Either way, before you get started, it could help you to have an idea of what a business plan can do for you and how to get the most out of yours.
Does my business need a startup plan?
Writing a comprehensive business plan is heavily recommended, especially for any business that is pre-revenue. Your startup business plan will serve two important functions:
- Provide the backbone of your pitch to investors, telling them everything they need to know about what to expect from your company, like:
- How you differ from the competition
- Existing partnerships you’ll be bringing to the table
- Revenue needed to reach profitability
- Current and projected operating expenses
- Give your internal team something to refer back to when making decisions, helping ensure everyone’s on the same page and working towards the same goals
No one but you can say what your business “needs,” but after years of providing consulting for startups, we can say without a doubt that every startup will benefit greatly from at least a basic document outlining company objectives and the strategies they’ll use to reach those goals.
7 tips for writing your startup business plan
Okay, so you have an idea of why a business plan is so important for your startup. Now how do you actually go about writing one? Well, of course there’s always the option of hiring a startup consultant that offers business plan writing services, giving you one less thing to stress about.
But if you’re not quite ready to take the step of hiring a professional, you can get started writing your own business plan by following the following simple tips.
Choose the right format
There was a time when business plans were rigidly structured documents that could easily exceed a hundred pages. Nowadays, they tend to be more flexible and fall into one of two formats:
- Traditional format: this longer format provides an in-depth look at the business, and is usually what traditional investors and lenders will ask to see.
- Lean startup format: this format may be as short as one page, and can be thought of almost as a way to “pitch” your business, giving readers a high-level overview of the operation.
The format you choose will largely depend on factors such as how simple or complex the business is and what you intend to use the plan for.
Consider your audience
This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous one, because when you’re writing your business plan you’ll need to keep your audience in mind when you decide everything:
- Which format to use
- How long to make it
- What information to include and exclude
Although it’s tempting to use your business plan as a place to brag about past business accomplishments or dream about what your new company might accomplish, keep in mind who you’re drafting the plan for and what they’ll be looking for. If you’ll be showing the plan to lenders, for example, they’ll want to see facts and realistic projections that make them feel confident that they’ll get their money back sooner rather than later.
Paint a clear picture… but be concise
It can be hard to decide what to include in a business plan and what to leave out, but it’s crucial to get the balance right if you want your plan to serve you. Give your readers everything they need to make an informed decision about your company, and leave the rest out.
Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. What would you want to know if you were thinking about investing in a company? Probably at least:
- What product or service you provide
- What problem you solve for your customer base
- How you plan to market your business
- Competitor analysis
- Financial projections
You want to give your readers enough information to give them confidence in what you’re doing, but the last thing you want to do is draft a rambling, monotonous document that no one wants or has time to read.
Explain why you’re different
The last thing you want to do is badmouth the competition in your business plan, but you do want to make it clear that you have something they don’t. Use your business plan to clearly outline where your business sits within the market as well as your brand’s value differentiators so investors can easily understand why they should invest in your company rather than elsewhere.
Back up your claims
Of course you want to give the best impression possible about your business, but you also need to back up everything that’s in your business plan with facts.
For example, if you say that no-one in the market comes close to providing what your business offers, you’ll want to follow that up with verifiable facts that show where your competitors are falling short.
Is your brand filling a current hole in the marketplace? Show some proof of how in-demand the types of products or services you offer are, and how consumers aren’t able to fill those needs anywhere else.
One of the biggest mistakes new business owners make when drafting their startup business plan is being too optimistic with financial projections. When you’re calculating your future income and expenses, always err on the conservative side.
Not only will this show lenders and investors that you’re realistic about your business, it’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised when your business does better than you’d planned rather than the other way around. It’s always better to under promise, over deliver.
Never stop updating
Although a startup business plan is especially vital for new businesses that are trying to get funding, you and your team will be able to refer back to the plan in the months and years to come as your business changes and grows. Make sure to keep your plan updated to reflect the current changes so that you and your executives are all on the same page when it’s time to make decisions that will affect the company’s overall objectives.
Get help from experienced startup business plan consultants
If you haven’t written a startup business plan before, the idea of doing so can be pretty intimidating. While you can definitely piece something together on your own, getting help from skilled business plan consultants can take some of the weight off your shoulders and help ensure you end up with a polished document that truly reflects your business objectives.
Take the Stairs in Nashville, TN offers startup business plan writing services for new companies that want to make sure they do everything right from the get-go. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help, reach out any time to schedule a discovery call.