Writing a Business Plan
What is a business plan? A business plan is a financial roadmap that shows how your business will reach the goals and objectives you have set. United can assist you in achieving success and making your new business a reality.
What should I include? The purpose of writing a business plan is to document where your company is today, what it wants to achieve in the future and the steps it will take to get there.
Think of your business plan as a map. It lets everyone follow the route that you have mapped out. Since people outside your company will be reading your plan, you need to provide meaningful detail.
How should I start? The first step in the plan is to provide legal information on your company, including the company's name and address, ownership and its structure (a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, etc).
Include copies of your historical financial statements including balance sheets and income statements. A resume on key people in the organization is also helpful.
Communicate the history of your company, what you sell and who your customers are. What makes your product or services unique enough that your customers want to buy from you?
What are my business objectives? A key feature of business plans is that they force you to think about what makes your company successful. The SWOT method (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) is a useful tool of organizational analysis.
When you think about your company's current performance, ask yourself what your strengths and weaknesses are. For example,
▪ "Do we have skilled employees or low supply costs?"
▪ "Do we have the right equipment to do the job efficiently?"
▪ "Long-term, what are the opportunities and threats that we face?"
▪ "Will technological changes help us grow, or will we face a shortage of good workers?"
▪ "Are there competitors that will steal sales from us?"
You should include strategies that will help you achieve your revenue goals. Your revenue strategy should focus on the steps you'll take to sell more products or services. You can increase sales to each of your current customers, find totally new customers, or a combination of both. Within your sales strategy you should have a contingency plan to address two common problems: (1) dramatic changes in the economy and (2) an attack by a competitor attempting to steal your current customers.
How do you measure success? The most common measures of success are increasing sales and profits. Keeping track of changes in your income statement and balance sheet is fundamental, but you should also have other "subjective" measures for your company. This might include items such as installing a computer system, selling your product in a new part of the country, cross-training key people, or implementing a 401(k) retirement plan. The key is to have a goal and a deadline for achieving it.
OTHER ITEMS TO CONSIDER
In addition to your business plan, …
Business Financial Statements - To document changes in your company, your plan should include balance sheets and income statements for at least three years. Your company's most recent interim statements will also be helpful.
Projections - Your cash flow needs can be determined by preparing projections that reflect expected sales, expenses, and non-cash items, such as depreciation. (This is an excellent time to enlist the help of your United Bank & Trust Business Banker).
Business Practices - Credit terms can dramatically affect day-to-day cash flow. You should know what credit terms are extended to you by your suppliers and what terms you plan to extend to your customers. With your business plan, a United representative can suggest financing and service opportunities to assist you in meeting your goals.
Personal Financial Statement - As a business owner, you should describe your personal financial condition. Be sure to include your ownership position in your company. If you are an owner in other companies, be sure to list these as well. The personal statement needs to be signed by both you and your spouse if property is jointly owned. Ownership needs to be clearly stated.
Borrowing Needs - Tell us how much you want to borrow, what the money will be used for, and the source of repayment. Your United Bank & Trust Business Banker can discuss the right amount, terms, and projected payment schedules.
For additional resources to help you write your business plan, visit
▪ The U.S. Small Business Administration Business Planning website: http://www.sba.gov/
▪ State of Michigan “Guide to Starting a Business": http://www.michigan.gov/som/0,1607,7-192-29943_31466-95802--,00.html
▪ SCORE®, Counselors to America’s Small Business: http://www.score.org/