PLANNING AS PART OF THE BUSINESS OPERATION
A. Planning is a process that never ends.
- In the early stages, the entrepreneur should prepare a preliminary business plan.
- The plan will be finalized as the enterprise develops.
B. Many different types of plans may be part of any business operation—financial, marketing, human resource, production, and sales plans.
- Plans may be short term or long term, or they may be strategic or operational.
- All of these plans have one purpose: to provide guidance and structure to management in a rapidly changing market environment.
II. WHAT IS THE BUSINESS PLAN?
A. A business plan is a written document prepared by the entrepreneur that describes all the relevant external and internal elements involved in starting a new venture.
- It addresses both short- and long-term decision making for the first three years of operation.
- The business plan is like a road map for the business’ development.
B. In developing the business plan the entrepreneur can determine how much money will be needed from new and existing sources.
III. WHO SHOULD WRITE THE PLAN?
A. The business plan should be prepared by the entrepreneur; however, he or she may consult many sources.
- Lawyers, accountants, marketing consultants, and engineers are useful supplemental sources.
- Other resources are the Small Business Administration, Service Core of Retired Executives, Small Business Development Centers, universities, friends, and relatives.
- The Internet also provides outlines for business planning.
- Entrepreneurs can also hire or offer equity to another person to provide expertise in preparing the business plan.
B. To help determine whether to hire a consultant, the entrepreneur needs to make an objective assessment of his or her own skills.
C. Through this self-assessment, the entrepreneur can identify what skills are needed and where to obtain them.
IV. SCOPE AND VALUE OF THE BUSINESS PLANCWHO READS THE PLAN?
A. The business plan must be comprehensive enough to address the concerns of employees, investors, bankers, venture capitalists, suppliers, customers, advisors, and consultants.
B. Three perspectives need to be considered:
- The perspective of the entrepreneur—the entrepreneur understands the new venture better than anyone.
- The marketing perspective considers the venture through the eyes of the customer.
- The eye of the investor—the investor looks for sound financial projections.
C. The depth and detail of the business plan depends on the size and scope of the proposed venture.
D. The business plan is valuable to the entrepreneur and investors because:
- It helps determine the viability of the venture in a designated market.
- It gives guidance to the entrepreneur in organizing planning activities.
- It serves as an important tool in obtaining financing.
E. Potential investors are very particular about what should be included in the plan.
F. The process of developing a business plan also provides a self-assessment of the entrepreneur.
- This self-evaluation is similar to role-playing, requiring the entrepreneur to think through obstacles that might prevent the venture’s success.
- It also allows the entrepreneur to plan ways to avoid such obstacles.
V. HOW DO POTENTIAL LENDERS AND INVESTORS EVALUATE THE PLAN?
A. Because the business plan should address the needs of all the potential evaluators, software packages and Internet samples should be used only to assist in preparation.
B. As the entrepreneur becomes aware of who will read the plan, changes will be necessary.
- Suppliers may want to see a business plan before signing a contract to supply products or services.
- Customers may also want to review the plan before buying the product.
- The business plan should consider the needs of these constituencies.
C. Potential suppliers of capital will vary in their needs and requirements in the business plan.
- Lenders are primarily interested in the ability of the new venture to pay back the debt including interest within a designated period of time.
- Lenders focus on the four C’s of credit:
- The entrepreneur’s credit history, or character
- Their ability to meet debt and interest payments (cash flow.)
- The collateral or tangible assets being secured.
- Equity contribution or the amount of personal equity that has been invested by the entrepreneur.
- It is also important for the entrepreneur to develop a strong personal relationship with the loan officer of the bank.
- Investors provide large sums of capital for ownership (equity) and expect to cash out within 5 to 7 years.
- They will often place more emphasis on the entrepreneur’s character than lenders.
- The venture capitalist will play an important role in management of the business and wants the entrepreneurs to be compliant and willing to accept this involvement.
These investors will also demand high rates of return and will thus focus on the market and financial projections.
D. If the entrepreneur does not consider the needs of these sources, the plan may be an internalized document without consideration of the feasibility of meeting market goals.
E. Most external advisors and potential investors are bound by a professional code of ethics regarding disclosure.
VI. PRESENTING THE PLAN
A. It is often necessary for an entrepreneur to orally present the business plan to investors.
- Typically the entrepreneur provides a short (20-30 minutes) presentation of the business plan.
- The entrepreneur must sell their business concept in a short time period.
B. A venture capitalist or angel group may also ask the entrepreneur to present the plan to their partners before making a final decision.
VII. INFORMATION NEEDS
A. Before preparing a business plan, the entrepreneur should do a quick feasibility study to see if there are possible barriers to success.
- The entrepreneur should clearly define the venture’s goals, which also provide a framework for the business plan.
- Goals that are too general or that are not feasible make the business plan difficult to control and implement.
- The business plan must reflect reasonable goals.
B. Market Information.
- It is important to know the market potential for the product or service.
a. The first step is to define the market.
b. A well defined target market makes it easier to project market size and market goals.
2. In order to build a strong marketing plan, the entrepreneur will need to gather information on the industry and market.
a. This process can be visualized as an inverted pyramid, starting with very broad based data and information.
b. This information can then be used in the industry analysis and marketing planning sections of the business plan.
3. The information gathering process.
a. General environmental trends should be evaluated, including household income trends, population shifts, and employment trends.
b. The next step is the assessment of trends in the national industry.
c. The next two stages consider trends in the local market.
d. General local economic trends should be considered.
e. The final step is an analysis of the local competitive environment.
f. After all of this analysis has been completed the entrepreneur is ready to clarify the product or service offering, actual market positioning, and market objectives.
4. To assess the total market potential, the entrepreneur can use trade associations, government reports, and published studies.
C. Operations Information Needs.
- The entrepreneur may need information on:
b. Manufacturing Operations
c. Raw Materials
e. Labor Skills
2. Each item may require some research but is needed by those who will assess the business plan.
D. Financial Information Needs.
- Before preparing the financial plan section of the business plan, the entrepreneur should prepare a budget, including possible expenditures and revenue sources for the first year.
a. Revenues from sales must be forecast from market data.
b. The entrepreneur will need to identify benchmarks in the industry that can be used in preparing the formal pro-forma statements.
2. The entrepreneur can use secondary sources that provide percentage norms for such costs in projecting operating costs.
3. Sources for benchmarks include:
a. Publications such as Financial Studies for the Small Business.
b. 10K reports for similar public competitors.
c. Trade associations and trade magazines.
4. Some investors require five-year projections.
VIII. USING THE INTERNET AS A RESOURCE TOOL
A. Thanks to technology, entrepreneurs are able to access information efficiently, expediently, and at very little cost.
- The Internet can serve as an important source of information in preparing the business plan.
- Information on industry analysis, competitor analysis, and measurement of market potential can be located.
B. In addition, the Internet also provides opportunities for marketing strategy through its website.
- Online sales increased 52% in 2002.
- The online audience has increased and represents a much broader cross section of consumers.
C. An entrepreneur can also access competitors’ web sites to gain knowledge of their strategy in the marketplace.
D. The entrepreneur can also investigate newsgroups.
- There are newsgroups of customers having the same interest in a topic.
- The entrepreneur can use Usenet to identify the most appropriate newsgroups.
- Members of the newsgroup can be asked specific questions about their needs, competitive products, and potential interest in the new venture’s products and services.
E. All that is needed to use these sources is a small investment in hardware and software.
IX. WRITING THE BUSINESS PLAN
A. The business plan should be comprehensive enough to give a potential investor a complete understanding of the venture and will help the entrepreneur clarify his or her thinking about the business.
- The business plan can take hundreds of hours to prepare.
- Many entrepreneurs incorrectly estimate the length of time writing a business plan takes.
B. Introductory Page.
- The title page provides a brief summary of the business plan’s contents, and should include:
a. The name and address of the company.
b. The name of the entrepreneur(s), a telephone number, fax number, e-mail address, and website.
c. A paragraph describing the company and the nature of the business.
d. The amount of financing needed.
e. A statement of the confidentiality of the report.
2. It also sets out the basic concept that the entrepreneur is attempting to develop.
C. Executive Summary.
- This section is prepared after the total plan is written.
- It should be two to three pages in length.
- The summary should concisely the key points in the business plan.
- Questions that should be addressed include:
a. What is the business concept or model?
b. How is this business concept or model unique?
c. Who are the individuals starting this business?
d. How will they make money and how much?
5. If strong growth is expected, the executive summary should also include an exit strategy such as an IPO.
6. Any supportive evidence that might strengthen the case should be included.
7. Remember that this section is only meant to highlight key factors and provide a strong motivation to the potential investor to read it in its entirety.
D. Environmental and Industry Analysis.
- The entrepreneur should first conduct an environmental analysis to identify trends and changes occurring on a national and international level that may impact the new venture.
- Examples of environmental factors are:
3. Next the entrepreneur should conduct an industry analysis that focuses on specific industry trends such as:
a. Industry demand.
4. The last part of this section should focus on the specific market.
a. This would include such information as who the customer is and what the business environment is like.
b. This information is significant to the preparation of the marketing plan section.
c. Description of the Venture.
- The description of the venture should be detailed in this section.
- This should begin with the mission statement or company mission, which describes the nature of the business and what the entrepreneur hopes to accomplish with that business.
- Key elements should be described in detail, including the product or service, location, personnel, background of entrepreneur, and history of the venture.
- The emphasis placed on location is a function of the type of business.
a. In assessing the space the business will occupy, the entrepreneur should consider parking, access from the roadway, access to customers and suppliers, and zoning laws.
b. An enlarged local map is helpful.
5. Maps that locate customers, competitors, and alternative locations can be helpful.
6. If the building or site decision involves legal issues, the entrepreneur should hire a lawyer.
E. Production Plan.
- If a new venture is a manufacturing operation, a production plan is necessary.
- This plan should describe the complete manufacturing process, including whether or not the process is to be subcontracted.
- If the manufacturing is carried out by the entrepreneur, the plan should describe the physical plant layout and machinery and equipment needed.
- If the new venture does not include any manufacturing functions, this section would be eliminated.
F. Operations Plan.
- All businesses—manufacturing or non-manufacturing—should include an operations plan as part of the business plan.
- This section goes beyond the manufacturing process and describes the flow of goods and services from production to the customer.
- This would be a convenient place to discuss the role of technology in the business transaction process.
- If the venture is not manufacturing, this section would be titled operational plan.
- The entrepreneur would need to describe the chronological steps in completing a business transaction.
G. Marketing Plan.
- The marketing plan describes how the products will be distributed, priced, and promoted.
- Potential investors regard the marketing plan as critical to the venture’s success.
H. Organizational Plan.
- The organizational plan section is the part of the business plan that describes the venture’s form of ownership.
- If the venture is a partnership, the terms of the partnership should be included.
- If the venture is a corporation, this should include the number of shares authorized, share options, and names and addresses of the directors and officers.
- It is helpful to provide an organization chart indicating the lines of authority.
- This chart shows the investor who controls the organization and how members interact.
I. It is important that the entrepreneur make an assessment of risk in the following manner:
- The entrepreneur should indicate the potential risks to the new venture.
- Next should be a discussion of what might happen if these risks become reality.
- Finally the entrepreneur should discuss the strategy to prevent, minimize, or respond to these risks.
J. Financial Plan.
- The financial plan determines the investment needed for the new venture and indicates whether the business plan is economically feasible.
- Three financial areas are discussed:
a. The entrepreneur should summarize the forecasted sales and expenses for the first three years.
b. Cash flow figures for three years are needed, with the first year’s projections provided monthly.
c. The projected balance sheet shows the financial condition of the business at a specific time.
- The appendix contains any backup material not included in the text of the document.
- Possible documents:
a. Letters from customers, distributors, or subcontractors.
b. Secondary or primary research data.
c. Leases, contracts, and other agreements.
d. Price lists from suppliers and competitors.
X. USING AND IMPLEMENTING THE BUSINESS PLAN
A. The business plan is designed to guide the entrepreneur through the first year of operations.
- It should contain control points to ascertain progress.
- There is a tendency among entrepreneurs to avoid planning.
- Planning should be a part of any business operation.
- Without good planning the employees will not understand the company’s goals and how they are expected to perform their jobs.
- Bankers say that most businesses fail because of the entrepreneur’s inability to plan effectively.
- The entrepreneur can enhance efficient implementation of the plan by developing a schedule to measure programs and to institute contingency plans.
B. Measuring Plan Progress.
- Plan projections will typically be made on a 12-month schedule, but the entrepreneur should check key areas more frequently.
- Inventory control. By controlling inventory, the firm can ensure maximum service to the customer.
- Production control. Compare the cost figures against day-to-day operating costs.
- Quality control depends on the type of production system used.
- Sales control. Information on units, dollars, and specific products sold should be collected.
- The new venture should control the amount of money paid out.
C. Updating the Plan.
- Environmental factors—such as the economy, customers, or competitors—and internal factors—such as loss of key employees—can change the direction of the plan.
- It is important to be sensitive to changes in the company, industry, and market.
XI. WHY SOME BUSINESS PLANS FAIL
A. A poorly prepared business plan can be blamed on:
- Goals set by the entrepreneurs that are unreasonable.
- Goals that is not measurable.
- An entrepreneur who has not made a total commitment to the business.
- An entrepreneur who has no experience in the planned business.
- An entrepreneur who has no sense of potential threats to the business.
- No customer need was established for the proposed product.
B. Setting goals requires the entrepreneur to be well informed about the type of business and the competitive environment.
- Goals should be specific.
- They should also be measurable and should be monitored over time.
C. The entrepreneur who has not made a total commitment to the business will not be able to meet the venture’s demands of the venture.
- Investors will not be positive about a venture that does not have full-time commitment.
- Investors will typically expect the entrepreneur to make significant financial commitment to the business.
D. Lack of experience will result in failure unless the entrepreneur can gain the needed knowledge or team up with someone.
E. The entrepreneur should also document customer needs before preparing the plan.