Author Archives: Marketing Master

Enhance Your Efficiency-Do You Have a Business Plan?

Starting a business, whether big or small, is all about direction and planning.  Developing your business plan ought to be the first thing you do when you decide to start an online business—or any business for that matter.

The plan lays the foundation and guides everything else that will follow. This is because, in order to get anywhere with your business, you have to know what you want from the business and how to achieve it.

That is why setting your goals is usually the first step towards getting where you want with your business. Every entrepreneur should have their goals in mind when starting a business, and even established business owners would do well to regularly revisit their goals so as to stay focused on their purpose.

The goals—or objectives—are a part of what is generally referred to as the business plan.

The plan defines the business, its goals, whom it will cater for, as well as what and what activities need to performed at clearly stated times in the life of the business. 

This step will set your home business on the path to success. It surely shows you as organized, responsible and committed to what you have set out to do.

And should you need additional funding from external sources (including even close friends and family members) your business plan impresses it on onlookers that you aren’t going to throw away the funds.

But to get the best out of your business plan, you have to do it right. This naturally begs the question: What exactly is a business plan? And what goes into it?

To begin with, any business plan must serve as a guideline and as an outline of goals that need to be executed for the success of the business.

It is a document that allows you and any observer to easily see the direction of your home business, and the processes through which things are done. A plan also helps you to understand at any point in time the progress of the business and its future.

Now this may sound a bit too official. But just bear in mind that the mere fact that you are now working from home does not remove the need to imbibe several of the tried and tested strategies that help medium and large-scale businesses to succeed.

Second only to inadequate capital, the absence of any clear plan for their businesses has been identified as a major cause of the high failure rate among home business owners—less than 30% of those surveyed admit to having developed any realistic business plan for their business at the outset.

Having a plan includes setting and assigning responsibilities for the objectives you want to achieve, as well as setting the target dates for achieving them. If your home business has grown to an extent when you cannot possibly perform all tasks, assign a person to take charge of each action, but you should be the one to determine when that action should be completed.

It is also important that you follow through on your plans and assigned duties. Otherwise you would’ve wasted your time planning! Build some sort of checkpoints into your schedules to help you monitor your progress on a regular basis.

Having a clear plan to guide you as you run your home business is the surest way to stay focused on your business goals. It also increases efficiency by keeping you away from non-essential tasks that rob you of your time and money.

As an Online Marketing Business Builder being able to attract daily targeted leads to your business is the key to your Online or MLM Success. How would you like to attract 50-100 leads to your business daily? 

Learning these Marketing Skills will help you build your MLM or Online business. You can visit my Blog: sandraessex.com and this Success Website: yourmakemoneyonline.info to find out more complete information on Lead Generation Training.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/home-business-articles/enhance-your-efficiency-do-you-have-a-business-plan-3656060.html

A Well Written Business Plan Gets Debt And Equity Funding

No business can effectively operate nor attract the funds needed to survive prosper and grow without a good business plan. A good business plan is management tool that shows where your business is going, and just how you plan to get there, and is a necessity for attracting lenders, investors, partners and key personnel. Business plan outlines vary but they all must cover certain key areas, such as:

 

* Executive Summary

* Business Description

* Marketing Plan

* Financial Plan

* Management Team

* Appendix

 

Moreover, there are many kinds of business plan software on the market that can help you write your business plan, but you must still input the data needed to write your business plan into the software. The output of the software can never be any better than the data you put into it and you must manually put that in yourself. Here are four steps to help you write a good business plan:

 

1. Put all of your business plan data and information into several good old fashioned file folders and label each folder so that you know what is in it. This data and information will include such materials as marketing methods you will use, market research, management team bio’s, financial statements, profit projects and other similar items.

 

2. Get a good business plan outline or use the outline in the software you will be using to help draft your plan. And write a 250 to 500 word summary for each section of your business plan using the materials that you have in your business plan data and information file folders.

 

3. Expand upon your brief summary descriptions for each section of your business plan to write your actual plan, or let the business plan software do this for you. Be sure to give extra attention to the marketing section of your business plan because this section gets the more attention than any other part of your business plan from lenders and investors, since this tells how your profits will be obtained.

 

4. Keep your business plan to between eight to 12 pages, because when it comes to business plans more it not better, and anything longer than that quite simply won’t get read, then put a list of other information you have available in your appendix to be requested if wanted. You want your business plan to be a clear concise document that is easy to read and understand, because a confused mind will usually say no to what is being proposed.

 

A good business plan will help you to effectively and profitably operate your business, and is a clear road map that shows where you business is going, how you plan to get there, the people you will need to get there, and the profits your business will produce when you get there. And it will help you to get the money you need from lenders and investors to get where you want to go with your business. So do not underestimate the power of a good well written business plan, and by all means prepare you one getting started today. 

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/fundraising-articles/a-well-written-business-plan-gets-debt-and-equity-funding-3665932.html

The Forgotten Power Of A Small Business Plan No One Ever Talks About

It’s easy to get excited by an idea for your small business and then immediately dive straight in doing things which actually turn out to be wrong.

So most solopreneurs answer to this is to grab the 24 hour business plan book. And as you read it your excitement leaks away until by the end you’re completely lost because it has no connection to what you want to achieve.

What you want is a small business plan that tells you what to do, not a document with meaningless numbers and irrelevant predictions of sales.

And it’s because all small business plan books are written by academics who think you’re trying to raise finance. When actually you’re trying to raise a business from an idea in your head to a tangible profit pumping beast which feeds you and makes you look good.

And then you read a few more books and soon your idea is heading for the industrial shredder because you begin believing plans are just for venture capitalist who can’t find the movie channels. And rebels like you don’t need plans.

Then you’re into a downward spiral of no plan, no results, and feeling lost. So, you grab your journal, review your goals, get pumped up and plunge in head first. Straight back to square one.

You do require a plan. A small business plan is essential to taking your idea and translating it into a successful business.

A small business plan should give you direction. It should tell you the actions you need to do today.

And more importantly it should highlight the biggest challenge you’re facing this moment which stand between you and your goal.

And this plan also needs to highlight the answer to eliminating the challenge, so you can keep on building your business successfully.

Typically for most small businesses your plan will uncover a serious hole in your marketing skills initially. So you then amend your small business plan to include the steps to fill that hole.

Which means any small business plan isn’t a one off done and dusted accomplishment.

It’s the core of your decision making and action taking focus. With each step taken, your plan responds to the real results you experience. That’s it’s mission for you. The measured results immediatley show you if you’re on target or wide of the mark.

So I’m hoping you’ve recognized by now that more critically than the small business plan is understanding how to make one.

Knowing how and taking advantage of a planning system. A process which tells you what’s stopping you getting to your goal and then helps you find the solution.

Your planning then turns that solution into a specific set of steps.

With each action executed, you gather more results. That is real feedabck

Planning is the core of your weekly activities. A small business plan may only last for a day before it changes.

Most entrepreneurs and small business owners have no idea of how to plan.

So a plan is non existant. And consequently they live a business life of frustration and wheel spinning.

Know how to put together a small business plan. Ensure planning is your number one priority.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/entrepreneurship-articles/the-forgotten-power-of-a-small-business-plan-no-one-ever-talks-about-3779924.html

Writing a Business Plan — A How-to Guide

Lots of people want to start their own business. One of the first things that stops these would-be entrepreneurs from realizing their ambitions is the seemingly daunting task of writing a business plan. Writing a business plan, though, is a rather easy task if you understand your business, so let’s take a look at what a business plan entails.

 

Before we jump into drafting our business plan, we should think about why we are writing a business plan in the first place. Most business plans are used to secure financing for a business — whether it be a start-up or an existing company looking for additional capital. This financing could come from a bank, an equity or venture capital fund, friends, family or just about any other potential investor you could think of.

 

Another reason to write a business plan is to organize yourself, make sure you have thought through all the components of your business and make sure that it makes sense. A great idea for a product or service may not amount to a great business unless you can turn a profit through effective marketing, management of expenses, management of accounting and information systems, etc.

 

Things to Keep in Mind

 

As you write your business plan, keep in mind that your audience — whether you’re currently looking for financing or not — is likely to be a potential investor. You need to communicate to investors that your company understands its business and has thought through all the risks, challenges and opportunities involved in its industry.

 

To communicate this understanding to investors, you should try to provide sufficient detail about your business to demonstrate your knowledge. For example, you could write something like this: “According to the ABC Trade Association, profit margins for our industry average around 25%. With the procedures we have put in place, our business can achieve 30% margins due to the increase in our operational efficiency.”

 

There is no hard and fast rule for where or how you should add these kind of details, but using them will improve your credibility as a company.

 

You should also pay attention to your writing style. There is nothing to be gained by using fancy vocabulary or flowery language. In fact, such writing may cause your audience to lose sight of your business. Instead, you should write clearly and to the point so potential investors have a clear understanding of how you run your business.

 

The Outline

 

So with these ideas in mind, how should we structure our business plan? Below is one example of how a business plan can be structured. This outline contains the most commonly-used sections of a business plan but is by no means exhaustive of the areas that a particular business might need to cover.

 

Executive Summary

Business Highlights

Operational Overview

Market Overview

Management & Personnel

Financials

Appendix

 

The executive summary of your business plan should be a two to four page summary of your business plan. It should touch briefly on each area that is contained in the rest of plan and give the reader a good sense of your business even if they don’t have time to read the rest of the document. You may also want to touch briefly on the history of your company and its mission and values in this section.

 

Hitting the Highlights

 

Next it’s good to jump into the business highlights section. This section discusses what sets your business apart and what will lead to its success. You may want to highlight the experience of your management team, discuss the strength of your position in the market or any other factors that make your business competitive.

 

You may want to follow this section with a discussion of risk factors coupled with how your business mitigates or addresses these risks. Discussing risks is another opportunity to demonstrate that you understand the business and industry that you’re in.

 

Getting Down to Business

 

The next section is a discussion of the operations of your company. The operational overview is usually the longest section of a business plan and usually covers the business strategy, marketing strategy, the product or service offering, management and information systems and any other components that are important to the operations of the business.

 

An industry or market overview is also a helpful section to have. It will give potential investors who are not familiar with your particular industry or market a better sense of the environment in which you operate.

 

This section may include demographic information for the market where you sell your products or services. It may include a discussion of the regulatory or legal environment for your industry. You can also include some general statistics on the industry from a credible source such as a trade association. This will lend credibility to some of the assumptions in your financial projections in the next section.

 

The Bottom Line

 

One of the last sections in a business plan is usually the financial projections. Ironically, this section might be the section you want to start with when writing your business plan. Building a financial model for your business is one of the best ways to make sure that you’ve thought through all the basic components of your business and that it will eventually make money.

 

You’ll have to ask yourself several questions in the process: What are my start-up costs? How will my marketing strategy translate into revenue growth? What are my gross margins? What are my fixed costs and overhead? When will I break even? How much money will I need to raise to get started? What will my interest expenses be?

 

Your financial projects should consist of income statements and balance sheets. A good rule of thumb for a start-up is to show monthly income statements and balance sheets for the first two years of operations and then full-year projections for at least the first five years of operations. Depending on how long it takes your business to reach a break-even point, you may want to go out to ten years.

 

In addition to these financial projections, your financial section should include a discussion of your assumptions, an estimate of when your business will begin to turn a profit, key margins that you believe your business will achieve, etc. If your business is already up and running, you should include the past three years of financials instead of projections. If you have less than three years of data, you may want to forecast a few years out as well.

 

Finally, you may want to include an appendix where you can share additional data. You may want to add a few news articles here that highlight how quickly the economy in your market is growing. You may have some news articles on your business itself. Perhaps you have financial statements for multiple business locations that would provide more detail about your business.

 

How Long Should It Be?

 

The length of a business plan may vary depending on the type of business that it is, whether or not the business is already operating and what the business plan is to be used for. Some businesses may need a lot of technical description in order to effectively communicate how they will operate — and others are more simple.

 

Businesses that are already operating will be expected to provide a lot more details about their business such as the kind of accounting software they use, where their company is physically located, pictures of products or facilities, actual financial results, etc.

 

If a company is simply trying to organize its business and is not looking for investors, they may be able to get away with less details in their plan — although they may seek to dive into greater detail than investors might need.

 

A typical start-up business plan should probably run about 15-20 pages, though depending on the circumstances mentioned above, it could run a little shorter or quite a bit longer.

 

Setting Yourself Apart

 

On a final note, if you’re going to start your own business, you are going pro — and you should act like it. By all means, make your business plan looks professional. It should go without saying, but carefully read and edit your plan several times before sharing it with outside parties.

 

You may want to consider developing a logo for your company if you don’t have one already. Use pictures of your company or the products that it sells to break up the text of the document and engage the reader.

 

Again, these may seem like minor details, but sometimes a business plan may be the primary document a bank underwriter might have to go on as he or she is evaluating the credit quality of a loan application.

 

Having these details in place helps to communicate that you are serious about your business and that your business plan was not just something that you threw together a few days before because you needed it for a loan application. Know your business (or research it well), be as detailed as possible and present your company professionally, and you will have a solid business plan.

 

For a business plan template, visit Finance Ocean.

 

Or try taking a finance quiz!

 

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/entrepreneurship-articles/writing-a-business-plan-a-how-to-guide-3806071.html

Business Plan Tips

General tips for great business plan.

Your business plan must establish clearly who your competitors are in what way are they competitive with you. At the very least you will need to have a clear idea of how much revenue the actually earn and who they are selling to. How do you competitors market their products? This basic information is absolutely essential for your business plan.

Some crucial questions:
Planning for the worst-case scenario: How will you mitigate any setbacks, delays, or unforeseen delays to your execution strategy?
What is your “plan B” if you cannot execute your business plan?
What are the growth prospects of your market and what are the future sales trends in your market for the next 5 yrs?
What are the inherent and perceived risks to your business?

Your business plan should present information about the markets your business plans to target. You should be able to describe the specific markets your business will operate in, detailing the characteristics, demographics, needs, and buyer behaviors of your target market and relating them to your business strategies.

BusinessPlanFairy.com has some great business plan ideas. I recommend that you check them out.

 

Business Plan Fairy is the leading “Custom Business Plan” provider in North America. We represent small business owners and management teams serious about raising capital.

General tips for great business plan.

Your business plan must establish clearly who your competitors are in what way are they competitive with you. At the very least you will need to have a clear idea of how much revenue the actually earn and who they are selling to. How do you competitors market their products? This basic information is absolutely essential for your business plan.

Some crucial questions:
Planning for the worst-case scenario: How will you mitigate any setbacks, delays, or unforeseen delays to your execution strategy?
What is your “plan B” if you cannot execute your business plan?
What are the growth prospects of your market and what are the future sales trends in your market for the next 5 yrs?
What are the inherent and perceived risks to your business?

Your business plan should present information about the markets your business plans to target. You should be able to describe the specific markets your business will operate in, detailing the characteristics, demographics, needs, and buyer behaviors of your target market and relating them to your business strategies.

BusinessPlanFairy.com has some great business plan ideas. I recommend that you check them out.

 

Business Plan Fairy is the leading “Custom Business Plan” provider in North America. We represent small business owners and management teams serious about raising capital.
Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/management-articles/business-plan-tips-3829880.html

Business Plans – Five Steps To Prepare Yours

You have a fantastic idea for a new home based business. You have decided on your niche and you know who your target market will be. You have an estimate for your income potential and you are ready to start. Now, before you do anything else, you need to prepare a business plan.

Getting a business plan ready does not have to cause anxiety. It is not as difficult as some people think. There is some paperwork involved that is a necessary part of building your plan. Because of this too many new business owners skip this important step. A business plan will greatly help you and should not be avoided. It brings a reality to what you are doing and makes you think about every aspect of your business. A good business plan will help you adjust things, realize areas you need to improve and can help you avoid some costly mistakes in the future.

A business plan is also a very important tool for attracting the interest of people that may be able to assist you. People take you more seriously when you have taken the time to create your business plan. A good business plan makes you look more professional and shows that you comprehend what it takes to start and manage an online business. If you are in need of optional funding sources, then an effective business plan is an absolute must.

A good business plan does not have to be complicated. There are five areas that need to be covered when writing your plan.

1. Executive Summary – It is suggested that you actually write this last. This section will summarize your business plan and it will be easier to write this after you have composed the other sections. This is a very important section since some readers will not read anything else. It really isn’t difficult. Thoroughly read over your business plan before you start writing your executive summary. List the information that you consider to be the most important and that will grab the attention of the reader.

2. Company Overview – Here you will explain what you have in mind for your business. You will present a mission statement of the goals and objectives for your business. The mission statement will answer questions such as: What am I selling, promoting, marketing, etc? Who will I be attracting to my website? Why am I selling or promoting this product or service? Each business will have its own unique questions to answer of course. Your synopsis of these points should be brief and to the point. Be careful not to confuse goals and objectives. When you want to accomplish something then you make a goal. Objectives are the plans you make in order to accomplish your goals.

3. Business Environment – You need to gather some information relating to your industry. You should do some research into your market and competition. This will assist you to offer something that will make you stand out as different. You should also know your future customers and understand what it is that they are looking for. The more you know about them, the more likely they will turn into repeat customers. Take a candid look at the field that you are going into and pay attention to the structure, trends and possible barriers.

4. Company Description – Your company is not just the sum of what you sell or promote. It is also who you serve, what resources you use, the type of people you hire and more. In this section you should give the details of your business. You also need to explain in a one-sentence statement what sets you apart from all your other competitors. This is known as a Unique Positioning Statement (UPS).

5. Action Plan – The final part is the action plan. This outlines the steps you will be taking to make your plan work. These steps should also reflect the goals and objectives that you have outlined in your company overview section.

These are the primary parts of a business plan. You may also need to include a financial section if you are considering the help of a bank, lender or backer to help in your business. A financial section will require more market study, thought and planning than the other areas as it is based on assumptions you make about potential income. Remember the most important thing is to base any estimates that you make on realistic expectations and not overly optimistic dreams.

With this information and some helpful models, you will be well on your way to completing your effective and professional business plan.

Get more information about one of the first things a home based business needs, an employer identification number.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/small-business-articles/business-plans-five-steps-to-prepare-yours-3848267.html

How not to get Burned Out When Developing and Writing a Business Plan

I encounter a lot of business owners who quickly get overwhelmed when preparing their business plans. When looking at the business plan process as a whole, it does appear arduous. Impossible to many! But if you simply break the business planning process down into unproblematic steps, a building block process, it becomes much easier. I will go so far as to say it is enjoyable! This article has some great tips to get you going on your business plan.

You should put together a solid business planning process upfront. It is essential! The quality and scope of the process will localise the quality and effectiveness of the plan. Design it in parts and implement it in step by step sections, which build on one another. I like to start with the Company Section, then move on Management, then to Products and Services, then to the Marketing Plan, then the Strategic Plan, and finally the Financials, the Appendix, and last, the Executive Summary. This way the business plan builds on each section logically and incrementally, devising the process much more accomplishable, effective and efficient. Once you have the various business plan sections laid out and the order of their development, then come up with the questions and requirements for each section. There are a ton of books and resources on the internet to help you brainstorm these, and then apply this information to your business. My Business Plan Book contains a prescribed and proven business planning process, along with all the requisite questions and requirements on a section by section basis.

Steady consistency is what it takes to successfully complete a business plan. So you don’t get burned out and really enjoy the planning process, I suggest working on the plan a couple hours a day. Work on the plan first thing in the morning before you get busy with your business day. This way you have fresh mentation, and you get it done for the day (i.e. it is not weighing on your mind all day). If you can work 3 hours a day on the weekends, it will be worth the effort. However, taking one day off a week from the planning to take a step back and recharge is also preferable. Do what you can but don’t try to do it overnight. Consistency is what gets a plan done. Consistently work on it daily for shortest periods of time, and your plan will be done in a timely manner. Inconsistency brings disaster in a business plan process.

A Comprehensive Business Plan will typically be over 50 pages and can be upwards of 100+ pages. This is highly dependent on the size, background and sophistication of the business, venture or project. From the Comprehensive Plan it is a simple task to form your Ancillary Plans, such as a Funding Business Plan. Ancillary Plans typically are no more than 30 pages with 20-25 pages being the goal. Ancillary Plan brevity forces you to decide what is most important and all important(p) for the type of plan and the intended audience.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/marketing-articles/how-not-to-get-burned-out-when-developing-and-writing-a-business-plan-3906796.html

Business Planning – The Power is in the Questions

Our answer is the process that is used for business planning.  A great template or document structure doesn’t provide all that is needed in business planning.  The business planning process requires a holistic perspective on strategy development and document creation. 

A business plan is merely a communication of your business strategy, proposed actions and their financial implications.  The business planning process incorporates the development of these strategies and actions.  It converts the results of these strategies and actions into financial implications, in terms relevant to an investor, partner or finance company.  The difference between quality business planning and poor business planning is the lack of use of a structured process. 

When developing a business plan it is critical to ask the questions that your target audience would like to know.  This “Question Based” approach to business planning ensures the questions your target audience needs answered are covered throughout your documentation.

The business planning process is about far more than just the business plan document.  The process should facilitate structured development of your strategy, and then break the strategy down into a series of actions.  After years in Strategy consulting, we have realised that the key to this process is asking the right questions.

To improve the business planning process, we believe that it is critical to start asking the right questions.  This is the approach that consultants will typically employ.  By asking the right business planning questions, inconsistencies can be highlighted, before the business planning document is developed.  These questions enforce internal consistency between the core elements of the business plan: strategy, action, and financial implications.

Questions enable you to manage your business planning process at a higher level.  Rather than being distracted by the detail of the plan, you are free to develop your strategy, plan and financial implications without generating inconsistency between elements.  Prior to committing pen to paper, start by considering the questions that your target audience might have in their mind when reading your business plan.  After dealing with hundreds of Venture Capitalists, investors, grant providers and banks, we have developed a strong understanding of the questions they have in mind when reviewing a business planning document.

Whilst most people start by writing their business planning document, we recommend that this is the last thing you should do.  It is the end point of the business planning process.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/entrepreneurship-articles/business-planning-the-power-is-in-the-questions-3997001.html

Business Plan Software: Do You Need It?

Business plan software is something that often gets overlooked and isn’t considered to be a necessity for some reason.  In my opinion, business plan software is essential, it is not a luxury. I am a huge advocate of business planning. When people ask me  if they need a business plan, my response is, “Absolutely!” You see, starting a business without a business plan is akin  to  starting college without a degree plan. If you don’t know where you are going, you won’t know how to get there. You will waste your time and your money if you are not following a plan. It’s really  that simple!


So, you know you need a business plan, but what about  business plan software? For business planning,  there are really three alternatives: 1) crafting your own business plan from scratch; 2) hiring a business plan writer or business planning consultant; or 3) using business plan software to write your own business  plan. Each of these alternatives has its own advantages   and disadvantages.


Writing your own business plan from scratch is certainly a possibility. Doing so gives you the freedom to format and arrange the plan in any way that you see fit. On the other hand, doing financial projections, which are necessary  for  the  purpose  of budgeting and financial planning, can be difficult to do  without a business plan program,  or at least financial projection software or spreadsheets.


Hiring a business plan writer makes sense for some people.  A business  plan writer is generally well-versed in business planning and will have insight that will assist you in preparing a comprehensive business plan that takes everything into account. The disadvantages to having your business plan  professionally written are the expense associated with the initial plan, and the limitations that exist in regard to changing it as your business evolves, which is something that business plan software empowers you to do.


Business plan software is relatively inexpensive when compared to hiring  a  professional business plan writer or consultant. However, when compared to doing your own plan from scratch,  it may seem like an unnecessary expense. Business plan software does have many advantages. A good business plan software package, like Business Plan Pro by Palo Alto, has the headings  and  categories for a business plan already set up for you. It also has  guidance throughout the business planning process that  explains  what  to include in each part of your business plan.


What I really love about Business Plan Pro is that it is so  easy to do financial projections using the business plan software, whether or not you understand  accounting.  The main financial sections include a section for start-up costs,  one for income projections, one for a proforma balance sheet, and one for  a projected cash flow statement. Information that input into one of the financial forms automatically transfers calculations to the other financial statement forms making the process of projecting your financial plan a breeze.


Another huge advantage I see in regard to business plan software is that when you use business plan software to create your own business plan, you can make changes to it anytime you need to. It doesn’t become a stale  document  that sits on the shelf and collects dust. A business plan should be  always evolving. You should update your business plan frequently including new goals, objectives and milestones. You should also adjust your financial projections regularly for the purpose of budgeting. Business plan software makes it easy to do.


If you choose not to use business software, and to create your own business plan from scratch, you will need some guidance unless you are a  professional  business planner yourself. The Small Business Administration  at  sba.gov has some excellent resources and guides about business planning. If you choose to hire a  professional business plan writer, do  review their qualifications and references and make certain that you understand exactly what is included in the business planning services they are offering.


Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/business-articles/business-plan-software-do-you-need-it-9189.html

Creating a Car Wash Business Plan

Before embarking on writing a business plan for starting a car wash, a definition of what a business plan is in order. A business plan is a document to identify an opportunity, research why this opportunity is profitable and the steps needed to capitalize on the opportunity. The business plan can be a formal document or it can be written on the back of a napkin but the mere act of writing the idea down forces you to get the idea out of your head and on paper which helps find hidden business flaws and makes you think carefully about each phase of your business.

Creating a business plan is something anyone can do, even if you don’t know anything about business or finances. Even though the business plan is critical to getting the idea off of the ground, many entrepreneurs procrastinate when it comes to preparing a written plan. If you don’t know anything about business or finances, this is the best time to begin learning as the chances of your business being successful will be limited without this knowledge. Just as a builder won’t begin construction without a blueprint, entrepreneurs shouldn’t rush into new ventures without a plan. The old saying that “those who fail to plan, plan to fail” is very relevant when talking about starting a business. SBA’s statistics claim over half of new businesses fail in the first three years and the common factor is poor planning or under-capitalization (which is also poor planning).

Getting Started
The first step in creating a business plan is just getting started. Writing the business plan may seem overwhelming at first, but if you break the plan down to bite sized pieces and work on one section at a time won’t seem as daunting. Begin with what you know first and describe your business and your product or services. Work towards the more difficult subjects such as marketing, operations and financials. Don’t worry about it being perfect now, just get the concepts on paper – expand and refine later. If you get stuck on a section in the plan, skip it for now and come back later when you have more details.

Who is your audience?
When writing your car wash business plan, you need to keep in mind who your intended audience is and why you are writing the plan. Why? A plan for the bank will be less interested in the exit strategy and return on investment than one for equity investors. Additionally, a plan for written for internal use will be different than one looking for financing as a bank is not necessarily interested in detailed operations of the business.

Structure
Business plans tend to have a lot of elements in common. While there is not a format that all business plans follow, there are generally accepted guidelines that most follow as the order in which the subjects flow are not random. The Business Description of a business plan is aimed at painting a picture of your business and why this business will be successful. The Marketing, Management and Operations sections are researched and a strategy of how your business will compete and operate is developed. Last financial projections show in numbers what you explained in the business plan for the sales and expenses.

Breaking these three major sections down even further, a business plan consists of six key components:

  • Executive Summary
  • Business Description
  • Marketing
  • Managers & Employees
  • Operations & Location
  • Financial Projections
    In addition to these sections, a business plan should also have a cover, title page and table of contents.

    How Long Should Your Business Plan Be?
    The answer that nobody liked in school applies to a business plan which is, “as long as it needs to be”. The more complex a business or the more sophisticated investors or funds requested will increase the length of a plan. An average car wash business plan narrative should be 4-15 pages plus financials and appendix items.

    Business Plan Outline

    Executive Summary
    The executive summary is the first part of the business plan but is the last to be written. It gives the reader a quick glance of what your business proposal is about and what you are asking for. This part is critical as most readers will scan this section before deciding whether to read further.

    The executive summary should typically be about one-half of a page in length and include what you would cover in an elevator pitch such as:

  • Explain the condensed version of the business concept
  • Product description or service proposition
  • This section should emphasize any unique features or benefits that what is currently in the industry or area, aka why would someone buy your product over the competition.
  • The demographics of your market
  • The Management team
  • When the anticipated start date is
  • Your equity position
  • How much are you asking for

    Concise is the key in the executive summary. You will go into more detail later in the business plan.

    Business Description
    The purpose of the business description is to objectively describe the car wash business details and future potential include:

  • Mission
  • What the business does
  • Description of products and/or services
  • Industry information
  • Business Organization
  • Status of the business (start-up, expansion or purchasing)
  • Current and future goals

    Any facts or figures should be noted and sources included in the business plan. This information is important should you need to defend your data and assumptions. The business description is where you are trying to paint a picture of the potential of your business along with the facts to support it. Try to inject energy and excitement to get the reader enthusiastic about the idea, without going overboard of course.

    After describing the business, it is time to describe and additional products or services your car wash is selling. Keep in mind that it is important to show how your products and services are better than the competition. If you don’t have a good answer than you should rethink your strategy. What is it about your car wash that is going to get the customer to change doing business with the competition?

    Marketing
    A very important part of your business plan is the marketing section. Regardless of the quality of your products and your services, your business will be lost in the clutter of advertising. If you don’t know your customers, how will they ever find you? All of this begins with doing some research.

    Customers: Who Is Your Market
    The first step is to determine who you are going to sell to by identifying common characteristics of your market such as age, income, race, religion, education, interests and/or geographic locations. While everyone will want to wash their car product how are you going to effectively advertise to everyone and still make a profit? What you need to do instead is determine the group or groups of people who are most likely to use your car wash services and market to them. After all you are trying to generate a positive return on your marketing dollars, so use them wisely.

    Competition
    In today’s ultracompetitive marketplace, there is going to be competition, no matter how creative your business concept is. Attempting to run a portion of your car wash business better than the competition may be a difficult challenge so it is often better to focus on planning on being different and competing with them less directly. Can you serve a particular market niche such as the elderly that isn’t being looked at? Can you identify a unique operations/marketing/distribution strategy with a mobile approach? Even if you don’t have direct competition in your area meaning someone selling the same or similar products/services, you will have indirect competition for replacement products/services. If you indicate in your plan there is no competition it will be viewed that there is either no market for your product or you have not done your research.

    Optimally you will want information on at least three but no more than five competitors. List information about who they are, how long they have been in business, location, products or services offered, perception on pricing, quality, etc. and compare your advantages and disadvantages. If the information you are looking for is not available online, you may need to pretend you are a customer to get some of this information.

    Distribution – How Will You Get the Product To The Customer: By looking at who your market and competition is, you will have an idea of how to get your product to them. Perhaps through your research you will find a strategic advantage to serve the customer that the competition does not.

    Promotional Strategy
    With the above steps researched, the promotional strategy follows. The promotional strategy is where most entrepreneurs fail as they use the blanket statement that they are going to advertise in the newspaper, radio and/or television without thinking through the process or the customer. The promotional strategy provides you a map of how you are going to reach your market in the most efficient manner possible. Advertising is expensive, use it wisely.

    Sales Projections
    On of the more difficult areas of the business plan is coming up with sales projections. This number is probably going to be wrong and that’s ok. What you want is a figure backed up with justifiable data. Just grabbing a number out of the air saying you will make $300,000 won’t work. There are many sources to help come up with this number including:

  • Industry journals
  • Trade groups
  • Car washes in similar demographic areas
  • Industry experts
  • Census data

    Pricing
    The effects of pricing play a large role on how your product is perceived in the marketplace. Price too low compared to the competition and your product could be perceived as cheap and unreliable. Price too high with the features and benefits of your product and few customers come through the door. While this is a complex issue, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Make sure you can make a profit at whatever price you are selling at.
  • If you want to have lower costs and “get your foot in the door” it may be better to offer discounts or coupons initially until your business is better known.
  • Don’t be afraid to charge more for your product or service than the competition if you have something of more value to offer.
  • Pricing is the easiest of the marketing mix to change. You may find that a large competitor will under price you to ensure you can’t make a profit and your car wash goes out of business.

    Management & Employees
    In this section you would describe who is going to manage the business on a daily basis as well as provide strategic direction (if these positions are separate). Each of these people need to have a brief biography included as well as a resume in the appendix. Try to show how the experience and education of these people will be able to successfully execute the strategy in the business plan and succeed. Many times the owner may not have the specific experience for this business, so it is very important to pull their other professional experience in and explain how it will make for a successful operation. Next, a brief explanation of the employees is in order including:

  • What positions need to be filled
  • When they need to be filled (This is important in developing financial projections as you may have some employees come on after you start)
  • How much they get paid (Be sure to calculate payroll taxes as well, estimate 15% if not sure)

    It is also recommended to add the professional and advisors to your business. These people include:

  • Board of directors
  • Consultants
  • Accountants
  • Attorneys
  • Bankers
  • Mentors

    Operations & Location
    The operations and location section of the plan illustrates how you are going to make or acquire your product and information about your business location.

    Operations – Explain how and where your products or services are made. A few points to include in your plan
    How does your car wash operate, what steps are in your service?
    Who are your suppliers?
    What are the terms and lead time for this product?

    Location – Location is where you will be doing business out of. If you are in the classic, I can’t get my location until I get a loan so I can’t finish my business plan scenario, list what features you are looking at in a building along with average prices or rents and pad that number a little just in case. A few things to add:

  • Department of Transportation traffic count – most states have this information online to show how many vehicles pass your location each day.
  • Building description
  • What is the size
  • Where is it located
  • Specific reasons for this property
  • Proximity to suppliers, roads, airports, railroads, and shipping centers, etc.
  • Zoning
  • Average utilities – Be sure to get the last 12 months from the electric company if the building had been occupied. This could be an expensive lesson from a dishonest landlord. If you are opening a new location, try to talk with other car wash operators in a non-competitive area to get a estimate
  • Add pictures to the appendix
  • Add a floor plan to the appendix
  • Purchase price or monthly rent/lease
  • Include sales/rent/lease agreement in appendix
  • If building or renovating be sure to include quotes as this is an area frequently underestimated in costs.

    Financial Projections
    Financial projections are placed at the end of your business plan, before the appendix but it a very critical piece to the plan. The three must-have financial statements are a cash flow statement, a profit and loss statement and a balance sheet. The information already provided in the narrative portion of the business plan must match the financial projections. Most financial projections are three years in length. It is a good idea to include a Notes & Assumptions to Financial Projections page to both help make sure all of your numbers come through and provide an itemized list to provide clarity for the reader.

    Notes & Assumptions to Financial Projections
    Loans

  • Break out each loan (building, equipment, inventory)
  • Amount
  • Interest rate
  • Length
    And any monthly costs not discussed in business plan narrative
  • Cost of goods/inventory
  • Advertising
  • Employee wages
  • Insurance
  • License & fees
  • Miscellaneous
  • Professional fees
  • Rent/property taxes
  • Repairs & maintenance
  • Supplies
  • Telephone
  • Utilities
  • Vehicle expense
  • Etc.
  • Anything else that needs to be explained in the financials that is not in the narrative

    Financial Projection Sections

    Startup Expenses – These are all expenses you will incur prior to opening your car wash. It is recommended to have quotes available or in the appendix for the larger items. It is also recommended that you pad your numbers some as there will always be unexpected expenses that were not accounted for.

    Sources and Uses of Funds – This section details how the loan money will be used (inventory, car wash equipment, repairs and improvements, working capital, etc) and who is providing it (bank, investor or owner). You will likely need to be injecting 20% of your own money and maybe more depending on the risk assessment of the business and your personal finances.

    Cash Flows – The cash-flow statement is one of the most important pieces of your business plan. It shows a schedule of the money coming into the business and expenses that need to be paid and whether you have enough cash to sustain the business gained during the warm month to cover the costs during the winter months. Every part of your business plan is important, but none of it means a thing if you run out of cash. Should this number be negative, you either need to raise sales, reduce expenses or have more cash. Your cash flow statement will typically be three years in length with the first year analyzing the monthly figures and later years by quarter. Don’t be intimidated with the cash flow statement as it is merely a future look into your checking account.

    Profit & Loss – This statement, while similar to the cash flow statement but illustrated annually looks at the effects of non-cash charges such as depreciation and amortization to get an accounting overview of the operations of your business.

    Balance Sheet – The balance sheet is a summary of the value of all assets, liabilities and equity for an organization at the end of each year. A balance sheet is often described as a “snapshot” of a company’s financial condition and will show the value of the business over time.

    Personal Financial Statement – If you are looking at bank financing every person who will have a 20% or more ownership position will need to provide a personal financial statement to show how effective they are at managing your money. This statement will show your assets (checking & savings accounts, cd’s ira, 401K, valuables, home, vehicle, etc) as well as assets (mortgages, credit card bills, installment accounts, etc)

    Appendices
    Appendix items are various pieces of information that help make your case. Include details and studies used in your business plan; for example:

  • Quotes for items over $500
  • Resumes of the management team
  • Industry research
  • Demographic data and trends
  • Maps/floorplans/blueprints of location
  • Leases and contracts
  • Letters of support

    There is a lot to creating your business plan but will definitely make your business stronger. While it may seem easier to have someone else write your plan, there is no substitute to writing it yourself. This is your business and by writing it yourself you will have a better understanding of your business and strategies for success. There are also many free business plan templates and workbooks available on the web to help you get started. You can use these to help get started creating your business plan and then modify it for your car wash business.

  • For more free articles and resources for starting a car wash are available at www.StartingACarWash.com.

    Additionally, business plan help can be found at www.TheBusinessPlanFactory.com

    Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/small-business-articles/creating-a-car-wash-business-plan-350295.html