Business Planning For Recession Survival and Recovery

The New Basics of Business

With unemployment continuing to rise, home prices falling due to a surplus of inventory, and small business lending at a standstill, this recession doesn’t seem likely to end soon. The recovery will be slow and Americans will certainly not enjoy the prosperity of a few years ago for a long time to come. It’s not just economists who think this way. “Half the population in [a] new ABC News poll thinks both job security and retirement prospects in the years ahead will remain worse than their pre-recession levels.” (“Poll: Less Job Security is the ‘New Normal,'” ABC News The Polling Unit, June 15, 2009, analysis by Gary Langer) This confidence, or lack thereof, is an integral part of an economic cycle. The analysis goes on to say, “Those diminished expectations – plus the pain of the current downturn – are fueling retrenchments in consumer behavior that could fundamentally reshape the economy.”

Basically, consumers are hunkering down to limit spending, save money, conserve resources, and change the way they’ve been living. The major influence on the health of an economy is the psychological state of its consumers. When there exists a broad belief that spending beyond necessity is unwise, people will change their habits and as a result, some businesses will have to close their doors. The economy is molting into a new, leaner animal. Rather than react in desperation to avoid doom, firms should interact with the current situation with innovative and forward thinking actions.

No matter the economic slump, increasing profits is typically the number one goal of any business. To ensure profitability, a company must demonstrate a competitive advantage over others in its industry, either by cost leadership (same product as competitors, lower price), differentiation (same price, better services), or focusing on an exclusive segment of the market (niche). For long term maintenance of competitive advantage, a firm must ensure that its methods cannot be duplicated or imitated. This requires constant analysis and regular reinvention of competitive strategies.

A recession is the optimal time to reinvent competitive advantage because the pressure of a feeble economy will separate the strong businesses from the weak ones, with the weak falling out of the game entirely. Your business will be strong if you have a plan of action based upon a little industry research, an analysis of what you have and what you want, and continuous monitoring of the results of your plan. This kind of innovation is not only a necessity right now, but it is an opportunity to improve the quality and efficiency in the way you do business.

The three basic actions for growing a business in any economic climate are: improve efficiency (maintain output while reducing inputs, such as time and money); increase volume (produce more in order to spread fixed costs); reorganize the business (change goals, methods and/or philosophy). If you plan to implement one of these, you may as well plan to implement them all. By focusing on one of the above strategies, you will find a ripple effect that causes a need to address the others. This is a good thing.

Right now, growth may sound like an unattainable goal as businesses are grappling just to survive, but hey, “flat is the new up.” If a business can keep its doors open and lights on, then it’s doing better than many others. But lights and open doors don’t make sales, so making changes that attract business is in a sense, striving for growth. It won’t be this tough forever, but for now, putting some growth strategies into action may be what keeps your business alive, if not thriving.

Every Business Needs a Plan

Without a plan, there is little hope for growth, let alone survival. As my small business development counselor, Terry Chambers says, “If it’s not written, it’s not real.” That doesn’t mean it’s unchangeable, but it does show that you mean business. In order to accomplish your strategies of improving efficiency, increasing volume, and reorganizing your business, you’ve got to examine what you have, what you want, and how you plan to get there.

Sometimes it takes a significant event or change in existing conditions for a business to create a written plan. I think it’s safe to say that the state of the economy is a significant change that should prompt business owners to alter the way they’ve been doing things. If you already have a business plan, it’s time to get it out and revise it. Make sure your plan includes answers to these questions:

What do I want to accomplish?
What do I have to work with?
How have I done in the past?
What might I do in the future?
What will I do now?
How will I do it?
Is it working?

A business plan can be used as a vehicle for accurate communication among principals, managers, staff, and outside sources of capital. It will also help to identify, isolate, and solve problems in your structure, operations, and/or finances. Along with these advantages, a business plan captures a view of the big picture, which makes a company better prepared to take advantage of opportunities for improvement and/or handle crises.

Essentially, the three main elements of a business plan are strategies, actions, and financial projections. In order to cover all of the principle elements, you will engage in other types of planning:

Marketing plan: Includes analysis of your target market (your customers), as well as the competition within that market, and your marketing strategy. This plan is usually part of the strategic plan.
Strategic plan: Asses the impact of the business environment (STEER analysis: Socio-cultural, Technological, Economic, Ecological, and Regulatory factors). Includes company vision, mission, goals and objectives, in order to plan three to five years into the future.
Operational planning: With a focus on short-term actions, this type of planning usually results in a detailed annual work plan, of which the business plan contains only the highlights.
Financial planning: The numerical results of strategic and operational planning are shown in budgets and projected financial statements; these are always included in the business plan in their entirety.
Feasibility study: Before you decide to start a business or add something new to an existing business, you should perform an analysis of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis), as well as its financial feasibility, then asses its potential sales volume.

The process of business planning does not end when the written plan is complete. Business planning is a cycle, which includes the following steps:

Put your plan of action in writing.
Make decisions and take action based upon the plan.
Gauge the results of those actions against your expectations.
Explore the differences, whether positive or negative, and write it all down.
Modify your business plan based upon what you learned.

President of Palo Alto Software, Inc. and business planning coach Tim Berry says, “Planning isn’t complete unless you’ve planned for review.” Review is the fundamental action that initiates putting your business plan into action. In his blog at Entrepreneur.com, Berry lists some insightful strategies to making good use of your plan review, a few of which include keeping the review meetings as brief as possible and an emphasis on metrics as key to effective review.

Write your business plan in sessions. Don’t think that you have to produce a business plan before go to bed tonight or you won’t be able to open your doors for business tomorrow. I like Tim Berry’s Plan-As-You-Go method of business planning. The practice of planning is an effective way to really get to know your business and you might end up discovering some important things about your company and about yourself.

There are various strategies and outlines available that will guide you in choosing the appropriate format for your business plan. Check out the collection of sample business plans for a variety of businesses at Bplans dot com. Every business is different, therefore every business plan will be structured differently, but for the purposes of this white paper, I will present the fundamental elements that make up strategic, operational, and financial planning. Here is a basic outline, thanks to NxLevel® for Entrepreneurs (2005, Fourth Edition):

General Business Plan Outline
Cover Page
Table of Contents
Executive Summary

Mission, Goals and Objectives

General Description of the Business
Stage of Development
General Growth Plan Description
Mission Statement
Goals and Objectives

Background Information

The Industry
Background Industry Information
Current/Future Industry Trends
The Business Fit in the Industry

Organizational Matters

Business Structure, Management and Personnel
Management
Personnel
Outside Services/Advisors
Risk Management
Operating Controls
Recordkeeping Functions
Other Operational Controls

The Marketing Plan

Products/Services
Products/Services Description
Features/Benefits
Life Cycles/Seasonality
Growth Description (Future Products/Services)
The Market Analysis
Customer Analysis
Competitive Analysis
Market Potential
Current Trade Area Description
Market Size and Trends
Sales Volume Potential (Current and Growth)
Marketing Strategies
Location/Distribution
Price/Quality Relationship
Promotional Strategies
Packaging
Public Relations
Advertising
Customer Service

The Financial Plan

Financial Worksheets
Salaries/Wages & Benefits
Outside Services
Insurance
Advertising Budget
Occupancy Expense
Sales Forecasts
Cost of Projected Product Units
Fixed Assets
Growth (or Start-Up) Expenses
Miscellaneous Expenses
Cash Flow Projections
Break-Even Analysis
Monthly Cash Flow Projections – First Year
Notes to Cash Flow Projections (Assumptions)
Annual Cash Flow Projections – Years Two and Three
Financial Statements
Projected Income Statement
Balance Sheet
Statement of Owner’s Equity
Additional Financial Information
Summary of Financial Needs
Existing Debt
Personal Financial Statement

Appendix Section

Action Log
Supporting Documents (Resumes, Research Citations, etc.)

Executive Summary

A business plan starts with an executive summary, which is a one or two page summary of your business plan, or an introduction to your business. Although this section is at the beginning of the business plan, it is the last thing to be written. You’ll be able to condense your business plan more succinctly once you have the opportunity to work through the other parts of the plan. The executive summary may be the only thing a potential investor or financier will read, so write it last because it has to be the most compelling.

Start by writing a description of your business, including what stage of development it is currently in (conception, start-up, first year, mature, exit) and your plans for growth. Discuss the nature of your business, the main products and services you offer, the market for your products and services, and how and by whom the business is operated.

Mission Statement

Then work on your mission statement. Here is where you concisely state the focus, scope and hope of your business (or values, vision, philosophy, and purpose). What is the customer pain you are soothing, the need you fulfill? Here’s an example from Coca-Cola:

Our Roadmap starts with our mission, which is enduring. It declares our purpose as a company and serves as the standard against which we weigh our actions and decisions.

To refresh the world…
To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…
To create value and make a difference.

PepsiCo has a different take:

Our mission is to be the world’s premier consumer products company focused on convenient foods and beverages. We seek to produce financial rewards to investors as we provide opportunities for growth and enrichment to our employees, our business partners and the communities in which we operate. And in everything we do, we strive for honesty, fairness and integrity.

This is the mission statement of Inspiration Software, Inc.:

Our company strives to support improvements in education and business and to make a positive difference in our users’ lives by providing software tools that help people of all ages use visual thinking and visual learning to achieve academic, professional and personal goals.

Goals and Objectives

Next, outline your company goals and objectives, including long-term and short-term goals. You will get into more detail on how the goals will be accomplished in your operational plan and annual work plan, so focus on brevity at this stage. There is a difference between goals and objectives and it’s important to know what that is. I like how Andrew Smith explains it in The Business Plan Blog. Objectives are non-emotional, precise descriptions of what is needed to achieve a goal. Goals can involve emotion and don’t have to be as specific as objectives. Objectives are the steps to actualizing the goal. Here’s an example:

Goal:

To increase revenues by 50% by the end of the year.

Objectives:

Add a new product to our line.
Expand marketing outside of local area.
Develop a new customer retention strategy.

Of course, you will need a plan of strategies in order to accomplish each objective, but those details will be expounded upon in your annual work plan. A list of three short-term and three long-term goals, along with the objectives necessary to achieve them, is sufficient for most business plans. Remember to replace the goals and objectives with new ones as you check them off your list.

Background Information

The section that details the background information should start with identifying the industry your business is in. Even if you are not a member or have no intention of becoming involved, you should list any trade associations within that industry; you never know when you made need those connections. Find out what publications, magazines or journals are available to businesses in your industry. Use these and other sources of business information to identify how past trends (economic, social, political) affected the industry, as well as any current or future trends that may have an impact.

How does your business fit in the industry? What is the history of your business, including who started it, what changes have occurred, when was it started, where was and is it located, how was it started and operated, and why it was started? What barriers to entry, if any, have you recognized?

Organizational Matters

The ownership hierarchy of your business, the management structure, and the personnel are described in the section on organizational matters. This part of the plan deals with who, what and how your business runs. Who is in charge of what and how are they qualified? Discuss how the various parts of your business interact together; include details about outside contractors and consultants and what functions they perform. See the example below, thanks to Edraw Soft Vector-Based Graphic Design.

The organizational section of the business plan also needs to include an explanation of your record keeping process, checks and balances, and control management systems. Anyone who reads your business plan should be able to understand the organizational procedures for running your business day-to-day, as well as in an emergency situation.

The risk management plan needs to be fleshed out in the organizational section as well, including your risk strategy, the different types of insurance required, your contingency plans, and problem-solving protocols. What will you do if a natural disaster ruins part of your inventory? How will you handle the sudden illness or long-term absence of a key manager? What happens if you are unable to finish a project on schedule? What are some early warning signs to watch for?

It may not be pleasant to imagine all the “what ifs,” but doing it now and planning for those unexpected events will improve your company’s chances of surviving a storm. For an excellent step-by-step guide on the details of developing a risk management plan, see the article “How to Develop a Risk Management Plan,” by Charles Tremper at wikiHow.com.

Marketing Plan

The next section, themarketing plan, gets into the details of what your business offers and what market it serves. Marketing is the communication of how your products and services “ease customer pain.” Show the problem and how your business solves it. Marketing is a necessity for every business because once your doors are open, you must invite customers to come in. Everything you do in your business that affects customers is marketing because it sends a message about your company.

This part of the plan details the features and benefits of your products and services, their seasonality and life cycle, as well as any future products and services you are planning. It also includes a thorough market analysis, in which you will study your customers, your competition and the market itself. Here you should include a PEST analysis, in which you will consider the impact of various factors upon your business. The factors include combinations of the following, depending upon your business: social, technological, economic, environmental, political, legal, ethical, and demographic.

Studying your market will give you insight as to how you can make your business more appealing to people. Market research is more than just noticing trends in your customers’ buying habits; it’s discovering what motivates your customer to buy. Don’t assume that you already know because you’ve been in this business for years. This study often unearths characteristics about your market that are hidden or new. It’s best to discover these things before your competition.

Another key element to the marketing section of your business plan is an outline of your marketing objectives, strategies, and tactics. Writing down the avenues you travel in order to market your business will afford you the opportunity to record what worked and what didn’t work. You must be able to measure and calculate the results of your marketing efforts, otherwise, what’s the point? If you don’t know if something is working for or against you, then it’s working against you.

Include details about all of the following that are applicable to your business in the marketing section of your plan: location and distribution, and promotional strategies, such as packaging, public relations, advertising, and customer service. As a result of exploring these areas, you will naturally need to consider how much you will budget for your marketing efforts. This question is closely connected to your sales forecast, which leads us into the next section of the business plan.

Financial Plan

The financial plan consists of four sections: Financial Worksheets, Cash Flow Projections, Financial Statements, and Additional Financial Information. All of these components will tell the story of how you plan to start or grow your business from a financial perspective. It is vital that you explain the assumptions under which you have based your projections, for example, “We assume that there are no unforeseen changes in economic policy to make our products and service immediately obsolete.” or “We assume interest rates will stay the same over the next three years.” (both quotes from Bplans.com sample business plans)

I suggest that you construct easy to read tables and graphs for the financial portion of the plan. The worksheets suggested are: Salaries/Wages and Benefits, Outside Services, Insurance, Advertising Budget, Occupancy Expense, Sales Forecasts, Cost of Projected Product Units, Fixed Assets, Growth (or Start-Up) Expenses, and Miscellaneous Expenses. You may find some of the worksheet templates at PlanWare.org to be useful.

The expected revenues and expenses for at least a year should be projected in the cash flow section of the Financial Plan. It’s better to make conservative predictions rather than be too optimistic when it comes to cash flows. As part of this section, a break-even analysis is essential. This is the “amount of units sold or sales dollars necessary to recover all expenses associated with generating these sales.” (NxLevel for Entrepreneurs, 2005) The formula for calculating the break-even quantity is Total Fixed Costs/(Price – Average Variable Costs).

The financial statements section should show the way things are now if you have an existing business, as well as a forward look at your checking account, or projected income statement. The only way a start-up company can provide an income statement and balance sheet is by projecting these figures based upon well defined assumptions. Both start-ups and existing businesses should include a statement of owner’s equity.

An income statement shows revenues minus expenses, in order to calculate net income or net loss. Start-ups should project these expected results for the first twelve months of business, then quarterly for the next two years. A list of a company’s assets (what you own), liabilities (what you owe), and net worth (assets minus liabilities) is called a balance sheet. The statement of owner’s equity shows the owner’s initial investment, additional investments, and retained earnings, minus owner withdrawals.

The additional financial information at the end of this part of the plan should give a summary of your business’s financial needs in order to grow, show its debt position, and state the owner’s financial status.

Appendix

In the appendix, which is the final section, an action plan or timeline for implementing the business plan should be presented. This is where the detailed goals and objectives are expanded in a work plan. Also, include in this section any additional information or supporting documents that are relevant to your business plan, such as important research, marketing materials, product specifications, and owner and employee résumés.

Executive Summary

Now that you have written the hard part of your business plan, it’s time to write the fun part, the executive summary. As mentioned in the beginning of this white paper, this is the most important piece of the business plan because it illustrates the very essence of your business in a captivating and condensed form. If you ever share your business plan with a potential investor or potential buyer, the executive summary may be the only thing that is read.

Make the executive summary brief (no more than two pages), but make sure you showcase the best qualities of your business without glossing over important information; show why yours is a winning business. Write one to three sentences about each of the following:

General description of the business
Mission statement
Management structure
Business operations
Products/services, the market and your customer
Your marketing plan, including the competition
Financial projections and plans

A clear, concise, and convincing executive summary will intrigue your audience and inspire them to read the rest of your plan. If the plan is never seen by anyone outside of your business, don’t assume it was a waste of time. During the planning process, you will have worked through an enlightening exercise that prepares you to run and grow a better business.

Having this written document available for frequent consultation and review will improve your chances of not only surviving, but coming out strong on the other side of this recession. Most people think that knowing in the back of their mind what they plan to do is sufficient for survival or recovery, but the difference between a written plan and an idea is usually the difference between failure and success.

Business Plans – Your Roadway To Success

Experts say that a strong business plan is one sure step in the direction of success. So, what is a business plan in the first place? It is defined as a document that outlines the functional and financial objectives of a business. It also contains details of the budget involved and the goals to be achieved.

Everything on earth is tending to become compact. Gone are those days when a sea beach was described in a thousand words. Today, a similar description is possible with a powerful visual and a string of strong adjectives in only a few words. A mobile phone today is slightly bigger than your thumb. Similarly, a business plan is no longer a document of a hundred pages. Nobody wants to know your business. They want to know your views, your goals, your objectives and your plan of action.

How Well Can A Business Plan Be Implemented?

o Simplicity of a business plan – is it understood by one and all? Are its views and objectives clear?

o Specificity of a business plan – are the contents measurable? Are all the activities dated (initiation to completion)? Are all the actions distributed among personnel clearly?

o Real nature of a business plan – are the objectives and targets real? Are the goals set within a specified time achievable?

o Totality of a business plan – is the plan complete? Does it have all the necessary elements to outline your business goals?

A business plan has multiple uses. It can be used to start a new business enterprise, take a loan or to find good investors. There are many other reasons for which you need a business plan. You should first find out why you need a business plan.

Why Do You Need A Business Plan?

o Outline objectives and set goals to achieve them

o Prepare regular business review outlines

o Start a new business enterprise

o Decide on a value on a business for sale and legal issues

o Outline agreements between business partners

If business plans are conceived for different purposes, there must be different business plans for different kinds of ventures. Business plans are also known as growth plans, internal plans, investment plans and so on and so forth.

If your business plan is for internal study and revision, there is no need of background details of your organization because you are already aware of them. You need to add that only if your business plans are meant for banks and other institutions.

What Are The Different Types Of Business Plans?

– The most basic of business plans are the start-up plans that clearly outline the steps for a new business venture. They include details of service provided or product offered, market value of the same, implementation strategies, market and financial analysis. The basic structure consists of a summary of the company, ending with details of financial transactions and expectations for the first year.

– An operational business plan contains details of dates, deadlines and milestones. It is often referred to as an internal business plan.

– A strategic business plan aims at higher levels of target and does not deal much with dates and deadlines. This business plan is more of future and growth oriented and focuses less on facts of the company.

– A growth or expansion business plan focuses more on one or more subset of the business. There are variations of this kind of business plan. If it is meant for a new investment, it will obviously include the background of the company.

– A feasibility business plan is your entire business in bulleted form. It includes the summary, the mission and the vision of the company, the USP of the business enterprise, expected financial outcomes etc. The main purpose of this business plan is to test whether this business is worth a venture at all.

The Seven Points Of Business Plans

Business plans usually cover the following 7 points. Of course, they will vary in detail, depending on the purpose of the business plan.

– Mission Statement – your business plan must explain clearly why you want to start a particular kind of business in the first place. It doesn’t have to be long, but it needs to convey the message clearly.

– Business Description – this is the place where you talk about your business. What is it that you are trying to sell or provide? What is the USP of your business?

– Goals in view – here, you describe both your short term and long term goals. Short term goals may include your plan to acquire office space, provide a proper business name, apply for a business license etc. Long term goals include answers to where you see your business ten years down the line, opening new stores etc.

– Prospective Customers – who is your target audience? Why will they need your service or product? How well do you understand their needs?

– Competition Analysis – this helps you rank your business venture in the market. Who are your competitors? If their focus area is too competitive, try for a niche market that is comparatively less competitive.

– Financial Considerations – be realistic and optimistic about your finances. Make sure to spend only that much with which you are sure to receive returns. Or else, go in for a small business loan till your business can take care of its own expenses.

– Marketing – sell your ideas before you sell your products. Advertise your products everywhere you can think of. Don’t miss out on both offline and online publicity. If you get a chance, exhibit your product or service at local communities and organizations.

Do’s And Don’ts Of Business Plans

Your business plan should:

a) Set concrete goals and deadlines

b) Distribute work among people and departments and set deadlines to achieve the goals

c) Maintain a steady ratio of implementation to strategy to 10:1

d) Provide a platform for regular review and discussion

Your business plan should not:

a) Display your knowledge about your field of expertise

b) Be too lengthy – people lose interest easily

Not all businessmen and women are good planners. It has often been seen that a business fails because of the lack of a good business plan. That is one of the cardinal mistakes for an entrepreneur.

Business Plan Mistakes

Experts have identified some common mistakes regarding business plans. They are:

– No business plan – many business ventures begin without any plan. Plans are written out in a rush only if the clients or banks or investors ask for the same. It is often seen as unnecessary because the business is more important. Imagine the condition of a house without a plan. You will get lost midway in heaps of concrete and steel. Similarly, you will get lost in ideas and desire to implement them.

– Cash is more important than profits – business is not the same as profits. Cash is the main player. Only if you have cash to spend in the beginning, will you get profits at the end of the day.

– Ideas don’t sell – your business sells because of hard work, perseverance, cash and a lot of common sense. Your idea does not have to brand new. Old wine is better than new ones. Why? People trust age and experience.

– Fear factor – a business plan is as necessary and as routine as making a travel plan. You don’t need to be Einstein to chalk out a business plan. You just need to think straight and pen your thoughts.

– Specificity wins – focus on tangible results, instead of trying to be the best. Results matter and they tell you everything.

– Fit all business plans – your business plan should work for bankers and investors as well as internal review and corrections. Don’t make individual business plans for individual purposes. Rather, concentrate on your business.

– Everything cannot be important – you can have only a few priorities. 20 priorities are vague and they clearly show lack of strategy and of goals.

A business plan is the first step of starting a business. It is neither easy nor difficult. What is a business plan about? How do you implement a business plan? What do you include in a business plan? What are the ‘must have’s’ and ‘have not’s’ of business plans?

Whether it is travel, study, cooking or any other activity involving a process, planning is usually the first step. The same holds true for business. Business plans are probably more important than the business itself. For example, the plan for a house is more important than the house itself, though it is the house that people remember and not the plan. But the house wouldn’t stand without the plan, would it?

Writing A Business Plan For Success

Business plans are good for entrepreneurs starting a business who want to attract funding and established firms looking to expand into a new venture or grow their business. A business plan is a road map to the success of a business, many businesses fail every year because of improper planning. A good business plan eliminates this dilemma.

Purpose: The purpose of a business plan is to help determine the course of the business; where it should be in the future and where to place the resources in order to achieve that goal. It is a document that provides future lenders and investors with proof of the entrepreneurs’ credibility. Thus, making them better candidates for funding.

Length: A Business plan wording and formatting should be straight forward and simple. The business plan should not be more than 40 pages. Summary tables and business charts should be used to make the numbers easy to read and grasp. No more than two fonts should be used. Font size should be at least 11 or 12 point size. Page breaks should be used to separate pages and charts.

Objectives: The main objective of a business plan is to establish revenue projections for the business and provide details on how the business will acquire the revenue.

BUSINESS PLAN FORMAT

A) Executive Summary

This is the first section of a business plan. This section is a brief overall summary of the business. It will define the nature of the business. The executive summary should be the last thing written. Once the rest of the components of a business plan have be written, entrepreneurs will have a clearer sense of what to write as their executive summary. The executive summary contains the following:

Mission Statement- This is where the business plan states how the customer will benefit from what the business has to offer. The business plan needs to state what products and services the company will be providing.

Objective – This is what entrepreneurs expect the business to accomplish, basically setting goals for the company.

B) Company Description

In this section, the business plan will go over a detail description of the business. The company description section contains the following:

Ownership – What type of ownership will the company be: sole proprietary, partnership, or corporation.

Location – This states where the business will be located. Office’s, retail shop and any other type of facility that is associated with the business should be mentioned. A website address should be listed if the business has one.

Product & Services – What will the business be providing, will it be a service or a product?

Funding – This is where it is stated how the small business will get funded. Funding is broken down into two parts, start-up expenses and start-up assets. Start-up expenses is legal bills, renovation and leased equipment. Start-up Assets are items that the business owners will be using for the business operation. For example, cash, purchased equipment and inventory.

C) Management & Operation Plan

This section of the business plan details how the business will function on a day to day basis. It contains the following:

Management – This will be a list of the personnel that will have a managerial position and the definition of their role in the business.

Operation – This describe the process that it takes for the business to deliver the products or services to the consumer.

D) Marketing Plan

It details the small business effort’s to sell the products or services to the customer base. A marketing plan will contain a list of the following items:

Industry – This lists all the players in the market; the competition, the type of products and service that they have, the strengths that they have and how they attract customers.

Potential customers – This section provides information about the individuals who will be purchasing from the business. The customer demographics will be based on the industry of the company.

Advertising- It involves promoting the products or services to the customer base. It lists the different ways in which the business will do this. For example, newspaper, radio, television, magazines, direct mail, Internet or telemarketing.

E) Finance Plan

Cash is the lifeline of a business. Without it, the business will be in jeopardy. This section will contain the following items:

Profit and Loss statement – A statement that lists the business’ estimated revenue and expenses over a specific period of time.

Balance sheet – Measures the business resources (assets) and obligation (liabilities) and projected balance sheets for the first three years. The first year projections will be on a monthly basis and the second and third year projections are on a quarterly basis.

Why Make a Business Plan?

In many cases business plans are very important but so much of the time it’s a plan to try to convince someone else that you know what you are doing with your business like banks, investors, partners, etc. Now it’s true that a well written business plan can also be a major benefit to your success as well if done right. It can guide you and keep you on track and can be the vehicle to get you were you want to be especially with so many outside forces now days that bombard you. A plan can be extremely important to your success especially when you look at the statistics that says 51% of small businesses fail sometime during their first 5 years.

So why make a business plan? I want to show you a totally different kind of business plan. What if you made a business plan that focused only on what you want for your life? You have dreams about what you would like your lifestyle to be, right? Why not make a business plan that could give you those dreams? What would your business look like if it gave you exactly what you want in life. What kind of salary would your business need to give you? Why not build a business plan around that? Decide how much salary you would need to support your dreams and then build a business plan that would show exactly how your business could give you that. Wouldn’t it be better to have your business work for you instead of the other way around?

Did you ever stop and think what a unique position you’re in as a business owner? I don’t know of any other way you can have as much control over your success than owning a business. When you work for someone else, you are totally at their mercy as to what your future may be like. It doesn’t matter whether it is a private business you work for or a large corporation. Your future is in their hands. The only thing that might qualify other than owning a business would be to inherit or win a lot of money that would give you everything you want in life.

So, why make a business plan the normal way when you could first make one that could give you what you want in life? Have you ever thought about doing a plan like that? Would you know how? Would you have the time to do it?

Well if you don’t or not sure, let’s at least see what’s involved.

Here are the steps you would need to take.

First, you would need to know all your current business numbers. This will be the basis for the plan. You’re going to need to know:

1. What your current average monthly sales are
2. What your current average monthly material cost is
3. What your current average monthly labor cost is
4. What your current average monthly fixed expenses are
5. What your current average monthly variable expenses are
6. What your average number of transactions per customer per month are
7. What your average dollar sale per transaction is
8. What your average monthly profit is
9. What your average monthly profit margin is
10. And what % capacity your business is at right now

Second, decide what you want your salary to be

Third, determine how many years in the future you want to plan for

Fourth, you will need to know:

1. What % is your material cost of sales?
2. What % is your labor cost of sales?
3. And what % is your variable expense of sales?

Why do you need to know these percentages? As your sales increases or decreases, your material cost, labor cost, and variable expenses will track accordingly. They will track very close to the same % as your current business. As an example, let’s say your current sales is averaging $100,000 per month and your material cost is averaging $20,000 per month. That’s 20% of your sales ($20,000 ÷ $100,000 = 20%). So, what would your material cost be if your sales were averaging $200,000 per month? It would still be 20% but it would be 20% of $200,000 or $40,000. So with these percentages, you can project your material, labor and variable expenses. See how it works?

But your fixed expenses don’t do this. They remain the same no matter what sales does. That’s why it’s call fixed. These are expenses like rent, taxes, utilities, phone, salaries, insurance, etc. A lot of business owners never consider this. They just lump all their expenses together. But you could never make an accurate plan if you combine all your expenses together. If you project your sales higher and want to know what your expenses will be, you have to separate your fixed and variable.

So, thinking about this principle, let me ask you a question. If your sales grew 10% and nothing else changed, would your profit margin be higher, the same, or less? Profit margin is % of profit against sales

If you said the profit margin would be higher, then you are right. Why would your profit be higher? If you said because of the fixed expenses, you would be right. Your material cost, labor cost, and variable expenses would have gone up 10% but your fixed expenses would have remained the same. You brought in more revenue because of more sales and you spent 10 % more on material, labor, and variable expense to cover the extra sales, but you didn’t spend any more on your fixed expenses. So, less overall expenses, would give you higher profit margin. Make sense?

So, let’s see how we would make a business plan that would show exactly how your business could give you the salary you want.

First you would determine what you would like your salary to be. You’ve dreamed about having a nice income to support your dreams I’m sure. Let’s say right now you only make what your profit is giving you which might not be much. So let’s say the first year, next year, you would love to have a consistent monthly salary of $4,000 a month, every month. And every year you would like to be able to increase it so that after 10 years it would be at $10,000 per month. And let’s say you would like to grow your business 10% each year.

So, what would your business look like over the next 10 years to give you that?

Could you build a plan that would show exactly how your business could do that?

It would show what your sales, fixed expenses, material cost, labor cost, and variable expenses would need to be. It should also show you how many customers you would need and would show you what your profit and profit margins would be each year.

All it takes is your current business numbers as we listed earlier and you can make a business plan as many years out as you like.

Now, in addition, when you know the average number of transactions per customer and you know your average dollar sale per transaction, you can also project how many customers you would need over those 10 years as well. This would tell you everything about what your business would need to do to give you the salary you want.

So, wouldn’t it be nice to see what a plan like this would look like? Could you do it? It might not be as tough as you might think.

There is no doubt it would take some time and would require a lot of calculations, but when you understand these principles and know how to put it together, you could probably do it. What do you think? Have you ever thought about doing a plan like this? It’s actually kind of in reverse. You decide what you want and let your business give you that.

Now assuming you did do this and it looked reasonable to you, how would you go about making it happen? What approach would you use? This could be a little harder. Well let me show you something. It might be easier than you think.

Did you know there are 7 ways to increase profit in business? If we decided to grow our business, most likely the first thing we would think about would be to add more customers. Adding customers will increase sales and as we seen above can increase profit as well, but it might not be the most effective way to increase profit. Take a look at these and see which ones you think could work for you. Would it be to:

1. Add more customers?
2. Increase your transactions per customer?
3. Increase your average dollar sale per transaction?
4. Decrease your fixed expenses?
5. Decrease your variable expenses?
6. Decrease your material cost?
7. Or decrease your labor cost?

What’s more important, sales or profit? Profit is what generates your salary. You could actually make more profit with less sales. Less sales could actually be less work. The most important thing for a business is to make money. That’s profit. Now some might say, I don’t care so much about making a lot of money. I like the freedom of owning a business. Well that is probably true, but if you don’t watch your profit, you might lose that freedom.

It’s always amazed me how most businesses, even very large ones, talk about how much their sales are. You hear comments like, that’s a $10,000,000 company. But what’s a $10,000,000 company if it has no profit. Now I do admit that 2% net profit of $10,000,000 is a lot bigger than 2% of $1,000,000 but most likely the large one carries a lot more headaches too.

Maybe it would be much better to have focused on profit than sales. What if profit had been the focus instead of sales. What if this could have been the result?

$10,000,000 x 2% = $200,000 profit
$1,000,000 x 25% = $250,000 profit

So when using one or more of these 7 ways to increase profit, the first one (adding more customers) might be the one you want to focus on last. It’s probably more expensive

Now, if you had your plan completed and it showed what your business needed to do over the next 10 years to give you the salary and profit you wanted, the next thought would be how do I make it happen. Well the best way would be to take it one year at a time. Concentrate on next year first and then choose one or more of 2 through 7 to work on before trying to add customers.

As an example, let’s say your current average number of transactions per month per customer is 3.0. Which says on average each customer does business with you 3 times each month. You could calculate how much more profit you would get if you could increase it to 3.5. And I can tell you that would probably be enough to meet your plan. And if that did generate enough profit, all you would have to do is maintain everything else; sales, expenses, labor, average dollar sale, etc, and then just figure out how you could increase your transactions from 3.0 to 3.5. Maybe it could be with some type of promotion that would get customers to come in more often.

Once you chose which one or more of the 7 you want to use and calculate exactly how much impact they have on meeting your plan, you would now have a definite approach on how to make your plan work.

It seems simple. At that’s what it’s all about. It’s about how to make your plan work the easiest and smartest way you can eliminating all the guesswork or trial and error methods. Want to increase your profit? This is a good way to do it.

So, you see, once you decide which of the 7 ways you’re going to do, then the only thing left for you to do is figure out how to make the one or ones you have chosen work.

No doubt there would be a lot work to do to do a plan like this. You would need to figure out how to put it all together, do all the calculations, do a lot of what if’s, etc.. And I’m sure one of the biggest things would be, would you actually take the time to do something like this or even have the time to do it? You could pay someone to do it but that would probably cost you a lot. Plus if you did that, most likely it would require a lot of back and forth work to get it just like you wanted it which would be even more expensive. But even then, would you spend the money to do it?

Laundromat Business Plan – Sample Layout

These days most experts will advise you to create a business plan before you decide to take the risks that are associated with starting a business. A laundromat is typically a little more complicated than other small business models so the need for research, planning and a clear direction are even more essential for entrepreneurs entering the coin operated laundry industry.

A laundromat business plan will help you to prove to yourself that your ideas are viable. With a plan in place you will be able to set clear goals and map out a path towards achieving them in an organized manner. A sound business plan may become essential if you have to show it to financiers or investors prior to getting the startup funds that you need. Lastly it will help you to be more realistic and to ask yourself some tough questions about your ideas.

In this article we have set out a sample laundromat business plan layout. We have set out some examples of titles and content that you might consider using. Feel free to use it as a template as you proceed to put your own plan together.

Cover Letter

Your plan should be set out neatly in a folder with a cover that outlines what the report is about and who contributed to it. It is likely that many different parties will read your plan so you may consider attaching a cover letter to each one that addresses the reader specifically, highlighting the concerns that they will have.

Contents Page

If the plan is any longer than a couple of pages you should include a table of contents. This includes a list of all headings and sub-headings together with a page reference so that the information can be located quickly by the reader.

Executive Summary

An executive summary is a simple introduction to the report. Give the reader a brief introduction to your business plan and summarize each of the sections in the plan.

Mission Statement

While not essential, some businesses like to set out a mission statement which outlines their purpose or business philosophy. It usually covers non-financial motives. For a laundromat you might say that you strive to provide the best service to your customers or that you want to provide a clean, safe and efficient way for them to do their laundry. Your mission should be to do your best for the customer and to be better than your competitors.

Background

Provide readers with some background information on yourself and any other individuals who are involved with the proposed laundromat. Readers may want to know what your qualifications are and if you have had any experience in business or in the coin laundry industry.

Provide a background on the local coin laundry industry so that readers get a better understanding of the opportunities that are available.

If your planning has been in progress for a while then you might want to update the reader on what stage you are at. If you are considering purchasing an existing laundromat then you will want to outline the history of the business in this section too.

Business Description

Offer readers a basic description of the proposed coin laundry business. When will your new unit open for business? Where will it be located? Will you have an attendant on-site at the laundromat all day or only part-time?

Goals and Targets

Set out a list of realistic targets that you want to achieve with the business in the first year or two. Such targets could be financial and relate to gross or net profits on a monthly basis. They could also be related to other metrics such as membership numbers or customer satisfaction rates. Thinking longer term you may also set goals to expand into new locations.

Startup Requirements

Before you can launch your new laundromat business you must know exactly what you are going to need and how much it will cost. Costs will include everything from equipment purchases, renovations and marketing along with professional fees and compliance costs.

Once you have listed everything out you can then work out the total startup cost. From here you can mention some of the options that you have for funding the laundromat. Mention how much you will be able to contribute yourself and how much external funding you will require.

Products and Services

Go through the services that you plan on offering to customers. As well as a basic machine laundry service with washers and dryers you may also offer more upmarket services like ironing or dry cleaning. Make a note of the products that will be vended onsite. Obviously you will sell washing related products like soap powder and fabric softener but you may also offer non-related products like coffee and soda.

Market Analysis

As a prerequisite to writing a plan you should have done at least a little market research around the area where you propose to open your coin laundry. You can present your findings in this section of the plan.

In your research you should attempt to discover if there is sufficient demand for a laundromat in the area in question and if so, exactly what kind of services the people within this target market want.

You also need to consider the competition that you have in the local area. Produce a map that shows your customer catchment area bearing in mind that customers will usually go to the laundromat that is more convenient for them to get to. Look at the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. Is it going to be possible to pull customers from the catchment area of competing laundromats? Can you make your service that much more attractive than theirs?

Marketing Plan

Set out a plan to bring new customers into your laundromat and to convert them into regulars. The marketing component of your plan should cover everything from the development of your brand, pricing, advertising, other marketing methods and customer service.

Remember that in the laundromat business you will be relying on building long term relationships with regular customers. You not only need to focus on bringing in new customers but you also have to focus on satisfying and ‘over delivering’ to your existing customer base. If you retain your customers and please them then you will also benefit by referrals and ‘word of mouth’.

Business Operations

Set out a plan for the daily operation of your laundromat. Make a note of the equipment that you will have in place and how the demands for water and energy will be met. Mention how you plan on maintaining the machines.

Discuss your daily staff requirements. What role will you, as the owner take in the daily running of the laundromat? How many employees will you need and what will their responsibilities be?

What other systems will you have in place to ensure that the laundromat runs smoothly on a daily basis and that you can control and manage the business efficiently. Will you have a computer system to keep track of stock and cash flows? What about a security system?

Financial Analysis

Lastly, but most importantly, a sound business plan will include detailed financial forecasts over a period of two to three years. This data is best displayed in spreadsheets so that you can set up a column for each month. Some businesses include more than one spreadsheet to allow for different situations. You may consider including one as a best case scenario and others that show revenue growing at a slower rate than is expected.

Try to identify a break even point where the business would basically be running without making a profit, but without losing money at the same time. Then you will have an idea of the customer volume that you will have to aim for. To calculate break even point you need to assume an average customer spend per visit and then calculate the number of customer visits needed on a monthly basis.

If you are borrowing money to start the business you should also include a repayment schedule to show how fast the loan will be paid back.

Appendix

Many assumptions are made in business plans so it is important to be able to give reasons as to why you made such assumptions. Rather than guessing you should try to include data that backs up your theories. Include an appendix at the end of your plan that includes all supporting materials that don’t fit conveniently into the pages of the report. These could include maps, pictures, spreadsheets, tables and lists of references and sources to name just a few examples