5.22.2008

roadmaps: creating a business plan.



Woo hoo! Roadmaps time! It's been a few weeks since my last Roadmaps post, simply because things have been a bit manic around here. Just to recap, Roadmaps is a guide to discovering your passion and in doing so, organizing your pursuit for creativity. The series is geared toward those in the planning stages of their businesses, but will eventually cover a wide range of topics that more seasoned business owners may struggle with as well.

So, now that we've created a life plan and distinguished a few key business models, it's time to put some meat on our bones: the business plan.



OK. Here's my beef with the business plan. I'm just going to dive right in: this is NOT for everyone. The benefits of having a business plan are INCREDIBLE in a lot of avenues: investor relations, organization, key goals, organization, pr, organization. Did I mention 'organization?'

BUT. Don't let this hinder you from making a move. If you're scared stiff of a business plan [which you shouldn't be], just know that it is not an end-all document. I like to think of it as a doc that is constantly changing and reforming, and if used properly, will be your most utilized Word doc to date.

With that said, you know what you can handle. If you simply don't have the time and/or resources to focus on this step, do what you can. To make it easier, I've included a breakdown of the most basic business plan I've come across. I'll do my best to highlight the areas that I think are key, and those that you could skip if you're feeling totally overwhelmed.

Ok ready? Here we go. The basic ingredients of a successful business plan are:

1. Executive Summary.
I suggest doing this last. It's basically like titling your painting-- one big paragraph or two that summarizes a whole lot of stuff. You'll want to include your basic product/service description, current business and financial position and the request [IF this is an investor-centric plan].

2. Company Background
This is a section that will be continually updated. You'll include a description of your business, company history [just think when you'll have five/ten years under your belt!], current position and business, as well as ownership. For freelancers and/or sole proprietors, this is a great place for your 'business bio.' Since you are essentially the brand itself, a personal bio can work, too.

3. Services
Expand on the description of the services you'll offer. Get specific. If you're a stationery company, what products do you offer? Flat or folded? Qty? You'll also want to include a competitive comparison. To do this, find your top ten 'competitors' in the industry [I'd be happy to help with this if you live in a bubble!]. Then simply include what distinguishes you from your competitors. Keep it brief and TANGIBLE.

4. Research/Development
Do you need to research existing printing methods? Tax info? If there's something you DON'T know about, include it here. This will be a big expanding section, so feel free to jot a lot of questions for you to answer later. Of course, if you're seeking an investor, you'll need to have this research finished prior to meetings.

5. The Industry, Competition and Market
You'll want to research your industry for this section, including your specific market size. For instance, if you want to build a blogging business, you'll want to know that there are sixty MILLION blogs out there. Specifically, you'll want to find out how many blogs are in your genre (i.e. design, art, biz advice, etc). Get some concrete numbers down-- you'll thank yourself later.

6. Marketing Plan
This is my FAVORITE. It's also my specialty, as I sold my soul to a top marketing firm a few years ago. Here you'll want to list your pricing, distribution channels (i.e. will you promote your work through a blog, other blogs, publications, i.e., and what publications will those be?), promotional plan and feedback. Feedback includes any customer comments that are helpful toward the production of your goods or service. Constructive comments are most useful, for obvious reasons.

7. Operating Plan
Another favorite of mine, and an easy one. Chances are, you already have an Operating Plan, you just haven't written it out. Include location of your business (whether it's in your living room!), facility, operating equipment and personnel plan. If you plan to hire employees, include the details of your hiring process here.

8. Management, Organization and Ownership
Here, you'll want to make an organizational chart of some sort. If it's just you, then list your management principles should you expand your business in the future. [can skip this if you're burnt out, but do visit it later]

9. Goals and Strategies
This is a NECESSITY. You'll list your business goals, keys to success and a mission statement here. Spend some time on this, and make your goals realistic. They'll help you in the long run.

10. Financial Assumptions
There are some VERY helpful worksheets here, i.e. profit/loss and balance sheets. Include a cash plan, as well, so you can keep spending at the forefront of your mind.

11. Appendix
Not totally necessary, but sometimes helpful. Include any worksheets you've used in the body of the business plan, as well as some kind of personal financial statement and perhaps client testimonials. If you have a brochure and/or marketing/collateral, this is a great place for that as well.

[note: all business plans are NOT created equal. for a good example in your industry, visit bplans.com and check out a free template that is in line with your business market].

My final thought re: the business plan is that when you give it the time and attention necessary, you'll find that it becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you spend a Saturday afternoon focusing on your business, you'll start to feel a lot more like a business owner. And when you form a [real! live!] mission statement, you'll be well on your way to living it out.

Now. The biggie. I know this will probably be the death of me, but I'd like to offer my services for those of you that need it. I'm a massive advocate for small businesses, and have done a great deal of research. In doing so, I've compiled a questionnaire of sorts that you'll need to think about prior to completing your business plan. Email me right here if you'd like a copy.



If you simply can't wrap your head around the idea of sitting down and hashing this out, I'd love to assist you. My goal is to give each of you the access to a decent business plan you can customize for yourselves. Truly. I think it's quite important.

So, for those of you that need it, email me for your questionnaire! Everyone else? Get to cracking on that business plan and email me if you need ANY help along the way.

Love to you all.

33 comments:

Jordan Cappella said...

Great Post!

Jordan

Emily@oncewed said...

Thanks so much for the questionnaire, Erin. I'm looking forward to filling it out this weekend!

design for mankind. said...

Anything for you, sugars! :)

Octavine Illustration said...

this is so important and something i get completely overwhelmed by. i am bookmarking this post so that i may come back to it later when i'm ready to tackle this monster. i cannot thank you enough for this information...such a perfect explanation for something i've had a terrible time wrapping by brain around. i may be contacting you soon for help!~

beachbungalow8 said...

great and seriously, useful post. thank you!

design for mankind. said...

So glad to help! And Octavine--- I know it looks intimidating, but trust me--- it's NOT that bad! :)

Email me anytime. :)

Tizzalicious said...

Well this came right when I need it! Thanks! :)

Joanna Goddard said...

you are such a inspiration, thank you for all of these "worksheet" posts!

Social Network Web Design said...

Hi! I just came across your site..thanks for sharing this info! :)

jess gonacha said...

erin, this is so great. the business plan has been on my to-do list for MONTHS, and i just keep putting it off and putting it off..... i can see how it can add some organization, structure, and focus, though-- I just have to sit down and do it!! THANK YOU...

sarah said...

fantastic! all creatives need this kind of organized info (and gentle prodding to tackle it.) Thanks!!

Amrita said...

Great post Erin, I was recently told while visiting the National Stationary Show that this was key. So thanks so much for sharing.

JustAnotherDay said...

Thanks so much for posting this! As I get more and more serious about what I do I realize I need to make a business plan and really streamline my brand. This simple guide will come in handy!

Krissy said...

Good morning Erin! What a great post. I will dig deeper into it this weekend- really looking forward to it. Thanks so much

val said...

Excellent post! It makes me think: "to be indie or no to be.." "to make one of a kind or unlimited editions...", it may be a matter of how far your business can go, I haven't figured that out yet but I'll keep an open mind. Great help & a pleasure to read you!

diana @ please sir said...

Great post - will look deeper into this. You are so helpful!

design for mankind. said...

Awww, I'm so so so glad to be of help to you guys! Do let me know how I can help! :)

GreenCanary said...

Hey design for mankind! I would totally work with you on the tea shop/art gallery idea. If ever you get to the point when you're ready to launch, give me a call... For reals :-)

A Print A Day said...

i think someone should publish you...you need to make a book for crafty creatives. you're very thorough and genuinely want to help...i'll be the first to buy your book!

i love this segment of your blog erin. a lot of people don't even know where to start and your posts are very very helpful.

design for mankind. said...

Awww, thank you, yas. You are so sweet! :)

Suzanne said...

This is sooooo unbelievably awesome! Thank you thank you thank you!

Kelly C. said...

good lord, woman! you are unstoppable!!
thank you always for every thing you do with design for mankind!
all love,
k

{kay} said...

this such a wonderful post - thank you for taking the time to do it!

{kay} said...

this such a wonderful post - thank you for taking the time to do it!

Good-Grace said...

This is fanTAStic! Thanks for sharing it with all of us. :)

design for mankind. said...

Anytime--- I'm truly happy to do it, gals! :) Thank YOU!

Caleb said...

I'm interesting in getting a copy of the business plan questionnaire from you. Thanks!

design for mankind. said...

Sure thing, Caleb! Just email me at designformankind@gmail.com and I'll send it on over! :)

joanie said...

I must go back and start at stage one. There are just sooooo many things I want to do I'm hoping stage one will discuss how to focus.
I'm so impressed you're creative AND organized!

design for mankind. said...

Aww, thank you, Joanie. :)

Shauna said...

Erin-
This continues to be an amazing tool-- the roadmaps series. Thank you SO much!

Shauna

design for mankind. said...

Thank YOU, Shauna! :)

Anonymous said...

I think this just might be the push I need to get moving on my business plan. Off to email you for a copy of that questionnaire.

Leigh Anne

welcome.

because beauty lies in the details of design. in the pencil shavings, in the blueberry waffles. the vintage dress, framed portrait, old postcard.

design is inevitable. celebrated. design for mankind.

5.22.2008

roadmaps: creating a business plan.



Woo hoo! Roadmaps time! It's been a few weeks since my last Roadmaps post, simply because things have been a bit manic around here. Just to recap, Roadmaps is a guide to discovering your passion and in doing so, organizing your pursuit for creativity. The series is geared toward those in the planning stages of their businesses, but will eventually cover a wide range of topics that more seasoned business owners may struggle with as well.

So, now that we've created a life plan and distinguished a few key business models, it's time to put some meat on our bones: the business plan.



OK. Here's my beef with the business plan. I'm just going to dive right in: this is NOT for everyone. The benefits of having a business plan are INCREDIBLE in a lot of avenues: investor relations, organization, key goals, organization, pr, organization. Did I mention 'organization?'

BUT. Don't let this hinder you from making a move. If you're scared stiff of a business plan [which you shouldn't be], just know that it is not an end-all document. I like to think of it as a doc that is constantly changing and reforming, and if used properly, will be your most utilized Word doc to date.

With that said, you know what you can handle. If you simply don't have the time and/or resources to focus on this step, do what you can. To make it easier, I've included a breakdown of the most basic business plan I've come across. I'll do my best to highlight the areas that I think are key, and those that you could skip if you're feeling totally overwhelmed.

Ok ready? Here we go. The basic ingredients of a successful business plan are:

1. Executive Summary.
I suggest doing this last. It's basically like titling your painting-- one big paragraph or two that summarizes a whole lot of stuff. You'll want to include your basic product/service description, current business and financial position and the request [IF this is an investor-centric plan].

2. Company Background
This is a section that will be continually updated. You'll include a description of your business, company history [just think when you'll have five/ten years under your belt!], current position and business, as well as ownership. For freelancers and/or sole proprietors, this is a great place for your 'business bio.' Since you are essentially the brand itself, a personal bio can work, too.

3. Services
Expand on the description of the services you'll offer. Get specific. If you're a stationery company, what products do you offer? Flat or folded? Qty? You'll also want to include a competitive comparison. To do this, find your top ten 'competitors' in the industry [I'd be happy to help with this if you live in a bubble!]. Then simply include what distinguishes you from your competitors. Keep it brief and TANGIBLE.

4. Research/Development
Do you need to research existing printing methods? Tax info? If there's something you DON'T know about, include it here. This will be a big expanding section, so feel free to jot a lot of questions for you to answer later. Of course, if you're seeking an investor, you'll need to have this research finished prior to meetings.

5. The Industry, Competition and Market
You'll want to research your industry for this section, including your specific market size. For instance, if you want to build a blogging business, you'll want to know that there are sixty MILLION blogs out there. Specifically, you'll want to find out how many blogs are in your genre (i.e. design, art, biz advice, etc). Get some concrete numbers down-- you'll thank yourself later.

6. Marketing Plan
This is my FAVORITE. It's also my specialty, as I sold my soul to a top marketing firm a few years ago. Here you'll want to list your pricing, distribution channels (i.e. will you promote your work through a blog, other blogs, publications, i.e., and what publications will those be?), promotional plan and feedback. Feedback includes any customer comments that are helpful toward the production of your goods or service. Constructive comments are most useful, for obvious reasons.

7. Operating Plan
Another favorite of mine, and an easy one. Chances are, you already have an Operating Plan, you just haven't written it out. Include location of your business (whether it's in your living room!), facility, operating equipment and personnel plan. If you plan to hire employees, include the details of your hiring process here.

8. Management, Organization and Ownership
Here, you'll want to make an organizational chart of some sort. If it's just you, then list your management principles should you expand your business in the future. [can skip this if you're burnt out, but do visit it later]

9. Goals and Strategies
This is a NECESSITY. You'll list your business goals, keys to success and a mission statement here. Spend some time on this, and make your goals realistic. They'll help you in the long run.

10. Financial Assumptions
There are some VERY helpful worksheets here, i.e. profit/loss and balance sheets. Include a cash plan, as well, so you can keep spending at the forefront of your mind.

11. Appendix
Not totally necessary, but sometimes helpful. Include any worksheets you've used in the body of the business plan, as well as some kind of personal financial statement and perhaps client testimonials. If you have a brochure and/or marketing/collateral, this is a great place for that as well.

[note: all business plans are NOT created equal. for a good example in your industry, visit bplans.com and check out a free template that is in line with your business market].

My final thought re: the business plan is that when you give it the time and attention necessary, you'll find that it becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you spend a Saturday afternoon focusing on your business, you'll start to feel a lot more like a business owner. And when you form a [real! live!] mission statement, you'll be well on your way to living it out.

Now. The biggie. I know this will probably be the death of me, but I'd like to offer my services for those of you that need it. I'm a massive advocate for small businesses, and have done a great deal of research. In doing so, I've compiled a questionnaire of sorts that you'll need to think about prior to completing your business plan. Email me right here if you'd like a copy.



If you simply can't wrap your head around the idea of sitting down and hashing this out, I'd love to assist you. My goal is to give each of you the access to a decent business plan you can customize for yourselves. Truly. I think it's quite important.

So, for those of you that need it, email me for your questionnaire! Everyone else? Get to cracking on that business plan and email me if you need ANY help along the way.

Love to you all.

33 comments:

Jordan Cappella said...

Great Post!

Jordan

Emily@oncewed said...

Thanks so much for the questionnaire, Erin. I'm looking forward to filling it out this weekend!

design for mankind. said...

Anything for you, sugars! :)

Octavine Illustration said...

this is so important and something i get completely overwhelmed by. i am bookmarking this post so that i may come back to it later when i'm ready to tackle this monster. i cannot thank you enough for this information...such a perfect explanation for something i've had a terrible time wrapping by brain around. i may be contacting you soon for help!~

beachbungalow8 said...

great and seriously, useful post. thank you!

design for mankind. said...

So glad to help! And Octavine--- I know it looks intimidating, but trust me--- it's NOT that bad! :)

Email me anytime. :)

Tizzalicious said...

Well this came right when I need it! Thanks! :)

Joanna Goddard said...

you are such a inspiration, thank you for all of these "worksheet" posts!

Social Network Web Design said...

Hi! I just came across your site..thanks for sharing this info! :)

jess gonacha said...

erin, this is so great. the business plan has been on my to-do list for MONTHS, and i just keep putting it off and putting it off..... i can see how it can add some organization, structure, and focus, though-- I just have to sit down and do it!! THANK YOU...

sarah said...

fantastic! all creatives need this kind of organized info (and gentle prodding to tackle it.) Thanks!!

Amrita said...

Great post Erin, I was recently told while visiting the National Stationary Show that this was key. So thanks so much for sharing.

JustAnotherDay said...

Thanks so much for posting this! As I get more and more serious about what I do I realize I need to make a business plan and really streamline my brand. This simple guide will come in handy!

Krissy said...

Good morning Erin! What a great post. I will dig deeper into it this weekend- really looking forward to it. Thanks so much

val said...

Excellent post! It makes me think: "to be indie or no to be.." "to make one of a kind or unlimited editions...", it may be a matter of how far your business can go, I haven't figured that out yet but I'll keep an open mind. Great help & a pleasure to read you!

diana @ please sir said...

Great post - will look deeper into this. You are so helpful!

design for mankind. said...

Awww, I'm so so so glad to be of help to you guys! Do let me know how I can help! :)

GreenCanary said...

Hey design for mankind! I would totally work with you on the tea shop/art gallery idea. If ever you get to the point when you're ready to launch, give me a call... For reals :-)

A Print A Day said...

i think someone should publish you...you need to make a book for crafty creatives. you're very thorough and genuinely want to help...i'll be the first to buy your book!

i love this segment of your blog erin. a lot of people don't even know where to start and your posts are very very helpful.

design for mankind. said...

Awww, thank you, yas. You are so sweet! :)

Suzanne said...

This is sooooo unbelievably awesome! Thank you thank you thank you!

Kelly C. said...

good lord, woman! you are unstoppable!!
thank you always for every thing you do with design for mankind!
all love,
k

{kay} said...

this such a wonderful post - thank you for taking the time to do it!

{kay} said...

this such a wonderful post - thank you for taking the time to do it!

Good-Grace said...

This is fanTAStic! Thanks for sharing it with all of us. :)

design for mankind. said...

Anytime--- I'm truly happy to do it, gals! :) Thank YOU!

Caleb said...

I'm interesting in getting a copy of the business plan questionnaire from you. Thanks!

design for mankind. said...

Sure thing, Caleb! Just email me at designformankind@gmail.com and I'll send it on over! :)

joanie said...

I must go back and start at stage one. There are just sooooo many things I want to do I'm hoping stage one will discuss how to focus.
I'm so impressed you're creative AND organized!

design for mankind. said...

Aww, thank you, Joanie. :)

Shauna said...

Erin-
This continues to be an amazing tool-- the roadmaps series. Thank you SO much!

Shauna

design for mankind. said...

Thank YOU, Shauna! :)

Anonymous said...

I think this just might be the push I need to get moving on my business plan. Off to email you for a copy of that questionnaire.

Leigh Anne