PUTNAM COUNTY, N.Y. -- As a banker with Tompkins Mahopac Bank, I’ve worked with many entrepreneurs. I know the challenges of launching a business. I’ve seen many start-up companies succeed and fail. Often the reason for failure is that the entrepreneur has a good idea, but hasn’t thought through how to turn it into a viable business. To succeed in today’s competitive marketplace, not only do you have to have a good idea, you need to know how to develop it into a realistic business plan.
The first step in this process is to ask yourself a simple but important question: Why do I want to be in business? Usually people want to start a company because they believe they have something unique to offer, or they see an unmet need or opportunity. That’s the starting point, but it’s important to do considerable research and think through each area of the company.
A good business plan doesn’t need to be a 30-page document. In fact, the simpler, the better. It should, however, include the following:
- Statement of purpose . This is a succinct description of your business. You could think of it as your “elevator speech,” i.e., how you would describe your business in a two-minute ride with someone in an elevator.
- An industry analysis or The Big Picture. This demonstrates an understanding of how your business will fit into your market sector. Included should be an analysis of growth trends and your competitors (both local, regional and global) as well as your suppliers and distributors.
- Your management team. Who will run the business and fill key roles in administration, operations, sales, marketing and distribution? You should also consider a contingency plan: who will fill in if there’s a sudden change in key people?
- Your marketing and sales plan. How will you attract, serve and retain customers, and serve their needs?
- Operations Plan. How your product will be produced, who will produce it and what materials are needed for each step of the process. A visual flow chart often makes this process easier to understand.
- Financials. For this, you need to determine realistically what your start up and operating costs will be. Many people begin their business in their home or garage, which eliminates the need to invest in an office or retail site. Also, you should include revenue projections versus costs for raw materials, production and sales. It’s important to be realistic or at least conservative in your projections.
Remember that you will need to keep up with changing customer demands to determine how they may affect your business. Owners need to stay on top of trends in your industry by reading business news and trade publications, and by networking with your customers, competitors and suppliers. Running a business is challenging, but it’s made easier if you know where you’re going and how you’ll get there. A business plan is your GPS that will keep you moving in the right direction.
Talk to an experienced banker who can help guide you through the business plan process. Contact Ron Ferri, Tompkins Mahopac Bank, Vice President, Small Business Lending Manager firstname.lastname@example.org 845-278-1027