Building Better Business Plans
Imagine the best book you ever read. Think about the opening sentence that enticed you into the book, the twists and turns of the plot that surprised you and enticed you to read on, the aspirational nature of the hero which made you root for their success. That happy, satisfied feeling you experience when you complete the book, when all the loose ends are tied up and you know that everything has turned out well for a reason is the same as the one your reader should experience when they read your business plan.
Your plan tells a story; the story of your dreams. It contains the fabric of your aspiration that are not captured in your Business Canvas, and each section paints a picture of your business idea in more and more detail. Considering the high failure rate and gender imbalance of start-ups, your business plan may also become your primary confidence booster, as it provides the ‘numbers behind the story’; financial worksheets & the marketing plan to back up your claims and ideas. And certainly, as you move forward to develop your business, your plan will be the reminder of the great things to come when you are struggling with the challenges that always accompany a new and/or growing business.
With more and more women choosing to leave corporate life due to gender balance disconnects, the business plan can become the primary tool for making that jump – and for women especially, this is important. In 2013, Forbes highlighted the confidence gap between women and men. The findings were a bit shocking; women typically start with less cash, find their money through ‘alternative financing’ and are twice as likely to discontinue their business as men[i]. The business plan is a way to build confidence and to put the right foot forward.
The descriptions of your company, offering and management of main element, help tell your story and form the body of the business plan. Although many believe that the main rationale for most business plans is to obtain funding, every start-up, no matter what size should write a business plan. It helps you clarify you value-add, and understand what makes you unique. It allows you to appreciate how much effort and money it really takes to start a business. It will also help prevent costly mistakes and act as a roadmap for your growth and expansion. Just like a book, your business plan will require several passes to flesh out and to ensure there is good flow and a consistent feel to the plan. Once you think your plan is complete, give it to at least one expert, or someone with experience in that industry, to review. This review is very important, especially if you are using your business plan to apply for loans or to seek out other forms of capital.
There is much support for startups here in Luxembourg. Writing a business plan forces you to do your homework, get advice, test your ideas and to consider important details. It also helps women overcome some of our natural biases and face societal barriers that are challenges to their success[ii]. Remember to think about your audience before you begin writing your plan. Your business plan will be influenced by the type of assistance you want. And check your sources – many organisations have a specific template that you must follow if you want to apply for funding or other assistance like mentoring. You don’t have to build your business plan from front to back. You can choose one section, for example, your offering, and work on that ‘chapter’ until it gives a clear picture of the customer, the value and points of differentiation from your competitors.
Think Big! Think Long-term!!
Currently, in Luxembourg, there is much emphasis on supporting startups but remember, start-ups don’t drive economic growth. Growing companies do. Until your company is big enough to employ 10, 20 or 50 people, you will probably struggle and you will probably not be able to impact the economy in any meaningful or sustainable manner. When it comes down to it, there is lots of support for startups here, but your plan is the best first step to starting effectively, so start with the end in mind! Think big and long-term for your plan.
Forbes: Business Ideas | Forbes: Startup Failure | HBR: Women Starting Businesses | Women Owned Business in the 21st Century | Wharton: Entrepreneurs: Male vs Female | Luxembourg Seed fund for Startups | Luxembourg Entrepreneur Support | Luxembourg: Start a Startup | Luxembourg: Fit for Start | Luxembourg: Support for Innovation | Luxembourg CoC: Mentoring
[i] Pofeldt, Elaine, The Confidence Gap And Women Entrepreneurs, Forbes Entrepreneurs, 2013-05-28, accessed 2016-11-03