Business Plan for the Small Business Owner

Simple. Yet Effective.

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A Business Plan is Your Roadmap to Success

You need a business plan. Whether you are just starting a new business or getting ready for the coming year, it always pays to know where you stand and where you are going.

With our Four Step Business Plan, established small business owners can easily find their “You are Here,” mark on the map, set reasonable and obtainable high-level goals and pinpoint potential obstacles and opportunities along the way.

Keep it Simple.

Make it Smart!

Find Your Current Location

The first step and sometimes the hardest step in reading a roadmap is determining your current location. Yet, without that “You are Here” mark, you are sure to get lost and stay lost. The same applies to your business plan.

Take about four hours during the next two weeks to determine your current location with a brief, in-house SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) Analysis for your business. Don’t over complicate it; a simple list will do.

To help you get started, we found this SWOT Template on MindTools.com and added a few of our own suggestions. 

Note: Mindtools is a paid membership site. SPS is neither associated with their organization nor promoting membership.

Once you’ve completed this important step, save it in a folder called Business Development!  It is page one of your business plan. Now that wasn’t too bad, was it?

Business Plan in Four Steps from SmartPayroll Solutions in Georgia

Suggested Research Materials

  • Calendar of Events (As applicable to your business location.)
  • Any applicable local developments such as new business moving in next door
  • An online trending analysis tool, such as Google Trends
  • A compilation of your customer feedback from around the net
  • Upcoming changes in federal, state and local regulations
  • Your balance sheet
  • Employee performance reviews
  • Quality control reports if applicable
  • Production Stats if applicable
  • An overview of upcoming changes in digital and social media marketing or other related technology

Additional Resources:

Get a detailed description of a SWOT Analysis with templates from Wikipedia. 

View the full SWOT Analysis article on Mindtools.com

Documenting Necessary Action Items

Using the SWOT analysis you have already completed, continue your simplified business plan using these simple steps.

  • Start a new spreadsheet (view example) with columns labeled:
    • Related SWOT Item
      • List your weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
    • Importance Ranking
      • Rank them from 1 to 4, with 1 being most urgent.
    • Action Required
      • Determine and document the high-level action items necessary to overcome the most important weaknesses, overcome known threats and take advantage of known opportunities.
      • Some of these action items may need a plan of their own, depending on their  size and scope. If you find that to be the case, in this exercise write “Research & Develop Plan,” and keep moving.
    • Projected Due Date
      • If known, assign a due date according to the degree of urgency.
      • If not known, use your ranking column and assign a due date at the end of the first, second, third or fourth quarter; i.e. items ranked number 1 are due by the end of the first quarter.
  • Sort your completed list by the Importance Ranking column in ascending order.
  • Name your spreadsheet “2017 Business Development” and save it along with your SWOT Analysis  from step one.

Business Plan in Four Steps from SmartPayroll Solutions in Georgia

Believe it or not, you are well on your way to having a complete, although simplified, business plan.

Notes and Resources:

For those complicated action items that need more in-depth research and possibly a plan of their own, consider using a good project management system, or at least develop a list of things-to-do, prioritize and set due dates.

Apptivo is just one of many online project management tools we found and tested. It works well with Google Apps, includes CRM and Project Management tools, plus invoicing and more. We found the user interface to be a bit clunky, but the price and available features outweighed those minor inconveniences.

What’s next?

With just a little homework, we’ll go from business plan to budget.

From Business Plan to Budget

In this step, we will determine if you will need additional resources for each action item, put a price on those resources and add the additional expenses to your budget.

Open your spreadsheet named 2017 Business Development (view example) and give it a quick review.  After the Resources Needed column(s), insert the following new columns:

  • Resources Available

Starting with your strengths from the SWOT Analysis, document the resources, talents, and skills currently available that you will utilize in completing each action item.

  • Resources Needed (You may need more than one row for this.)

Document any resources necessary that are not currently available, such as additional staffing requirements, HR skills, accounting or payroll software, or other online tools you may need.

  • Estimated Monthly Expense

For each resource needed, calculate and document your estimated monthly expense for each additional resource needed.

  • Estimated One-Time Expense

For each resource needed, add any one-time purchases you may need to make or one-time expenses. See ** below.

That was easy! Now, you have a list of action items ranked from highest to lowest priority. You have estimated any additional expense you may incur and you have a better idea of what it will take to keep your business running for the next year. You can very easily add these expenses to your monthly operating budget or submit them to your accountant.

Notes and Resources:

**Be thorough!  For example, if you determine you will need to hire additional staff, make sure you factor in the steps and expenses it takes to recruit, hire and train them. Also, determine whether or not you will need to purchase new equipment or tools for their use. Include their salary as an additional expense, as well as all benefits, payroll taxes, etc.

Adding staff also increases administrative costs. SmartPayroll Solutions offers affordable, online payroll, workforce management, and HR services that can help you keep those costs down. Contact us today and we will help you budget and prepare for a solution that fits your business.

Document your research. If you are researching business services, add a new tab to your worksheet, and list what you find as you go including contact information, URL, price, etc., and save it for future use.

Business Plan and Budget in Four Steps from SmartPayroll Solutions in Georgia

Own Your Business Plan

AND Make it Your Own

Every small business owner has dreams and plans for their business. Some are satisfied delivering services or products within their local community. Others have goals of reaching a wider target audience. Regardless of your short and long-term business goals, it pays to take time to document those goals and track your progress.

You have already defined high-level action items necessary to sustain your small business. In this step, simply review each action item carefully, looking at it from a different perspective. Think twice. Make sure the plan takes your business where you want it to go.  Most likely it is right on track, but adjust if necessary to make it the perfect fit.

Business Plan and Goals in Four Steps from SmartPayroll Solutions in Georgia

There are some items you may want to add in order to grow your business; e.g. reducing operating costs with the right workforce management tools, expanding your SEO results to reach surrounding communities or improving community marketing results to retain clients.

Once you have identified and documented any missing pieces, you will have realistic, measurable business goals for the upcoming year.

Now, for the personal goals.

Being your own boss and still not enjoying your job is a sad situation. Make sure you factor in your personal dreams and priorities. Your plan also needs to take you where you want to go.

Once you are satisfied with your business plan, it may be time to start chipping away at those goals. Break them down into tasks, assign responsibility and due dates, and determine how you will track your progress.

Make it fun with brainstorming sessions over coffee, but forget the bran muffin…you’ve earned a doughnut.

Strengths

  • What advantages does your organization have?
  • What do you do better than your competition?
  • What unique or low-cost resources can you draw upon that others can’t?
  • What do people in your market see as your strengths?
  • What factors cause  you to get the sale?
  • What is your organization’s Unique Selling Proposition?

Tip:

If you are a small business owner, it is highly possible that your business depends solely on your personal, skills, talents and availability. Take your own personal strengths, weaknesses and challenges into consideration if that is the case for your business.

Weaknesses

  • What frustrates you in your day-to-day operations?
  • What could you improve?
  • What should you avoid?
  • What are people in your market likely to see as weaknesses?
  • What factors cause you to lose sales?

Tip:

Again, if you are a one-man-band, consider that a potential weakness. What would happen if you become unavailable for any length of time? Are your clients protected in the event of your absence?

Opportunities

  • What good opportunities can you spot?
  • What interesting trends are you aware of?

Note: Useful opportunities can come from such things as:

  • Changes in technology and markets on both a broad and narrow scale.
  • Changes in government policy related to your field.
  • Changes in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, and so on.
  • Local events.

Tip:

A useful approach when looking at opportunities is to look at your strengths and ask yourself whether these open up any opportunities.

Threats

  • What obstacles do you face? Understaffed? Budget constraints? Low sales?
  • What are your competitors doing?
  • Are quality standards or specifications for your job, products or services changing?
  • Is changing technology threatening your position?
  • Do you have bad debt or cash-flow problems?
  • Could any of your weaknesses seriously threaten your business?

Tip:

Some things can be both opportunities and threats. Look closely at your threats and determine what it would take to use that to your advantage. See example**

**A CPA may consider changes in federal, state and local tax laws a threat due to the constant learning curve and required system changes. However, looking on the bright side, those same changes create a need within their client base. That need creates opportunity.

Getting Help With Your Business Plan

The Four Step Business Plan was submitted by Denise Mistich at First Up Marketing Services. If you need help with your business plan, feel free to contact her directly.

If you are in the planning stages of a new startup, these steps will certainly help, but you may have just a little more work to do. Here is a tool from the Small Business Association to help you get started with a business plan.

We also did some research on business planning software. If you want a more detailed, full lender-ready business plan, take a look at these affordable online options.