Ah, Business Plans, those things that every small business owner knows they should have, but often fails to complete properly, not to mention stay on top of as time goes on. It's a shame, as a Business Plan can be a super valuable tool, which can act as a roadmap from the early days of setting up your business, to helping you gain fresh clarity and focus along your entrepreneurial journey later on, as you reassess or change your direction. For some reason it just feels like such a daunting task to tackle one in the first place.
Here's an embarrassing picture from 1998. That's me rocking some very dubious hair clip action (I swear they were in fashion back then!) at a Business Studies course. At 21 I was by far the youngest attendee, plus I was also the only one setting up a creative business (my first business was about graphic design and photography) while there were other aspiring entrepreneurs from all kinds of fields from accountancy to massage services.
At that time, there were no such things as internet courses. If you wanted to learn stuff the only option was to actually physically turn up at classes. It's crazy how much easier it is to educate yourself right now. But please don't take information (or the overload of it) for granted. In order to make the most of what you learn, you still have to internalise it and put it into action.
After the course, I received the photo above from the man sitting next to me, who was setting up a haulage business. It came with a lovely note, which said ‘Good luck to the star pupil of the course!'. I don't like to brag, but I was the first of the course attendees to complete my (first ever) Business Plan, and the first one to actually get my business going, hence the praise. I still remember vividly how excited writing that plan got me. It was like all these random ideas and aspirations I had about living an artistic life were finally taking form and shaping into actionable goals, which pushed me towards my future.
One of the things I remember from that class is this ‘Entrepreneurial Wheel' we were asked to draw. It really made it hit home just how many different skills we need to hone, and how many different hats we need to wear as entrepreneurs. And without a solid Business Plan, staying on top of all these areas can get a little bit overwhelming. Making a Business Plan in the first place, or refreshing it periodically, doesn't need to be a boring chore. You should treat it as an opportunity to gain fresh focus and get excited about the future of your business again. It's a such a valuable (and inspiring!) practice to refresh your Business Plan annually.
Refreshing your business plan can help you to:
A business plan will not only help possible investors or lenders to get a clear idea what your business is about, but more importantly it will help you see more clearly where you are going. The crucial thing is to keep working on it though, and not treat your original business plan as some sort of master to-do-list.
Understand your market
One of the biggest benefits of going through the process of completing, and refreshing your business plan is that it forces you to analyse your market. Yes, it will take a bit of time, and you might not even look at your plan until the next time you’re rejigging it, but I guarantee that the time you spend researching your market will not be wasted. All the information you learn will give you an edge, as you’ll know exactly how you fit into the market.
Completing a business plan will help you focus and feel more empowered. You’ll have a clearer idea of your objectives and goals, which will help you feel more committed.
Internalise your message
It’s such a profoundly inspirational thing to properly articulate what you do. A business plan will give you that foundation, a mission statement you can fully stand behind, and which will help you to communicate what you do to others.
Without a business plan, it can be hard to measure how successful you are. If you refresh your plan annually you will also stay on top of actually knowing whether you are hitting your goals, and staying true to your values.
To help you with creating of refreshing your plan, I created a pretty cute Business Plan Template, which you can download completely free! I hope it will help you feel as excited, as I felt that first time I wrote one!
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