Let’s talk about business plans.

I know, I know; that’s about as exciting as watching paint dry. While that may seem to be true perhaps what is really driving that reaction is fear. When we don’t understand something we tend to be afraid of it and when we are afraid of something we avoid it like the plague. Right? The idea of writing a business plan might be so uncomfortable due in large part because when we think “business plan” we think of a 30-page document filled with charts, spreadsheets, accountants, lawyers and costing lots of money. But it doesn’t have to be that way. So let’s begin to demystify “business plans”; over the next few weeks I’ll be breaking down the info that goes into a business plan. Perhaps then it won’t seem so daunting a task and you’ll see the benefits of putting your plan down on paper. 16443389416_1f0908dc70_m

What Is It?

When you get right down to it, a business plan is nothing more than answering a few questions in some key areas. Once you answer those questions then you can flesh out your answers and provide some backup to your assumptions. You can find spreadsheets for the number crunching at a variety of places on the web. The length and detail of your plan will depend on who is going to see it – a bank, family, or for your eyes only. During the next few weeks we will just be discussing a basic template to get you started. What we will be discussing applies equally to a for profit and a non-profit business! All businesses need a plan!

Why?

Anyone who is in business already or who is considering launching their business needs a business plan. If they don’t, they either won’t be in business for very long or they won’t reach their full potential in business. Basically, a business plan is a critical tool for the business owner because it demands that the owner ask herself some poignant questions about her business and rationally assess the answers to those questions. Without such a process the business will wander aimlessly and likely crash and burn leaving the business owner not only demoralized but also likely owing banks, friends or family significant amounts of money. You’re not launching a business or a non-profit in order to fail. You want to succeed and succeed in a big way! So let’s give yourself the best chance at success by doing a little bit of planning in the beginning. Let’s begin.15402350046_b70d0dc9bf_m

What’s The Problem?

Today we start with the most basic question – what is the problem you are trying to solve? You’ve spent time in and around your neighborhood and have noticed a few things that are lacking. There isn’t a decent coffee shop anywhere close to you. There is no place to get a decent sandwich at a reasonable price. There’s no place to have some family fun. Where is one to get a decent cigar in town?

Perhaps you’ve been searching in the markets for a particular item to meet a particular need but have not been able to find it. You hear your friends talking about a particular problem but there isn’t anything that exists to solve the situation. You need a gizmo to make life a little bit easier.

Whatever the problem you see, whatever the desire that is not being satisfied, whatever the need that is not being met – there is an opportunity for you to provide the solution. If there is no problem, then perhaps it is best to categorize your “business” idea as a “hobby”. Don’t misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with hobbies but hobbies generally satisfy your own needs and not the needs, desires or problems of others around you.

So, the first part of any business plan begins with articulating a problem that needs solving or a need that requires a solution. Take some time to put down on paper the problem as you see it. Give it as much detail as possible. You should be able to delineate the issue within two or three paragraphs. Once you are able to describe in detail the problem then, and only then, can you articulate your unique solution.